Technology has enabled humankind to go from the stone age to the current millennium. In the beginning, humans wielded fire as their weapon, but we have come a long way since then and currently understand the complexity of the fabric of life, down to the smallest molecules. This has allowed scientists to manufacture metagenics which might very well be the future of health. Other than that, we have developed software to help us function better in the ever changing landscape of the world and one of the most influential innovation is: social media.

From 2017 to 2018, the amount of social media users worldwide grew from 2.42 to 2.62 billion. These platforms have become an integral part of business and the daily lives of people globally. While typically used for recreation, social media has the potential to benefit many industries and professionals.

Healthcare professionals specifically can use social networks to improve organization, communication, and other areas of their craft. While these positives do exist, negative elements can also result from poor use of these platforms. Ahead details the benefits, drawbacks, and best practices for social media use in healthcare.

One of the greatest benefits of social networks for physicians, specialists, and alike is networking. These online communities provide a hub for meeting other experts and communicating with colleagues.

Linkedin for example is a social media platform designed for professionals. Individuals working in healthcare can use it for connecting with those in the same industry. This can lead to collaborating on studies, research, or exchanging information.

Sermo and Doximity are two physician only social networks which healthcare workers should consider. Upon registration, credentials are verified to assure that only certified members can join. They enable users to discuss options for treatment, ask questions about cases, and seek guidance from other experts.

Secondly, social media provides an excellent ground for furthering education. Healthcare professionals will have access to relevant news, articles, and pages that could increase their knowledge. This could then aid in them delivering a better service to their patients.

Institutions, companies, and groups related to healthcare can also use social media for promotional purposes. These networks create an excellent platform to share updates, activities, and products. For example, fundraisers or customer service changes could be promoted to their audience. Answers questions and engaging is also an effective approach to building relationships.

While still an emerging idea, networks like WebView connect patients to their doctors for direct communication. It was developed by Georgia Health Sciences University and the practice is gradually becoming more accepted. With day to day life being continually technology oriented, interacting online with patients has considerable potential. Those suffering from serious illnesses such as mesothelioma, one of the most deadly forms of cancer caused by asbestos, can have their concerns and questions responded to immediately.

While it has its benefits, social media definitely has negative aspects that need to be considered. The first being that the quality of information can be poor or questionable. Professionals will need to perform due diligence and extra research to assure they are accessing high quality information.

There are endless blogs, databases, and websites to browse. Not all of these will have correctly sourced information or proper references though. Using such info could cause negative impacts if used towards patients or processes.

With social media being so accessible and transparent, professionals need to exercise extra caution to protect their reputation. Inappropriate comments or photos could easily damage someone’s image in such a serious profession. A long term career could be ended instantly due to poor decisions on social media because of this.

A very important aspect of healthcare is patient privacy. Under federal and state laws, breaching patient confidential information can result in serious repercussions. Healthcare workers and institutions need to be diligent that such data isn’t exposed on social media. This can be anything from speaking about it in private group chats to diverging it on a forum.

Social networks are tools, thus will yield results based on how they are used. If utilized for positive reasons, they will deliver beneficial results. The opposite however, can negatively affect both the individual and their patients.

To experience the best benefits of social media, professionals should restrict their use to networking, research, and promotion. Outreach can lead to opportunities which improve careers and the lives of patients. Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter are especially good for this.

In regards of learning and education, assuring information is correct is crucial. Checking for sources, references, and studies to back up claims will stop poor quality content from being collected.

Healthcare institutions themselves should also consider creating social media guidelines for their employees. This could prevent them from misusing it by providing examples and rules. Policies can outline what would create grounds for termination too.

Conscious use and being aware of potential problems is key to success for social media as a whole. With the correct approach, it has great potential for both companies and their patients.