Advocacy for Social Media Use in Health

Austin Chiang, MD MPH
Last Edited by AHSM Admin

For many, social media has become an integral part of communication for both health professionals and patients in daily life. With the advent of social media and influencer culture, patients have been more actively looking to social media for medical knowledge and passively exposed to health information. Health information is regularly shared on social media platforms, but often shared by non-medical individuals who might lack the proper training and credentials to be discussing these health topics. This may contribute to growing concerns over online health misinformation and its potential public health consequences. With its ability to spark social movements and political uprisings, health professionals on social media could harness this influence to substantially impact public health.

Similarly, social media has given health professionals an opportunity to amplify one’s voice without the filter of medical journals and/or traditional media. Social media has also fundamentally altered how many professionals communicate with one another and helped strength networks and facilitate collaboration. Some health professionals have used social media successfully to market their practices while others have focused on educating their peers and patients on the conditions that are treated. Some of these clinicians have successfully leveraged social media to reach large audiences, which could arguably improve not only access to medical care but also health literacy. Moreover public-facing clinicians willing to communicate digitally may also be more successful in humanize the field of medicine.

Encouraging clinician use of social media begins with a full understanding of social media platforms, their latest functionalities, and a great appreciation of the benefits of using social media professionally. There are a multitude of underrecognized benefits in social media use by health professionals including professional networking, marketing, research, education, recruitment, and even professional development.

Thus far, advocacy has been lacking to incentivize productive social media use among health professionals. Given its potential benefits in influencing public health and one’s perception of healthcare, social media use and other forms of health journalism should be incentivized. The Association seeks to advocate for incentives to promote greater uptake of social media use by trained health professionals.

Last edited: May 3, 2019