Social Media & Education

Natalie Crawford, MD

Social media platforms are popular forms of modern communication. However, many physicians and health care providers are fearful to post content or share on social media sites. Medical societies have long cited that physicians and health care providers need to keep their personal and professional lives separate. This has often led providers to feel fearful of social media and minimize the potential opportunity for patient education and public health promotion.

Over 61% of US adults look up health related information online with over 42% utilizing social media to access health information (Fox 2018). The truth is that the public is gaining access to health care information and medical facts from social media platforms, regardless of who is providing the information. Social media is a game of influencing. People are influenced by what they see, read, and watch on Instagram, twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Podcasts, Blogs and more. And healthcare providers need to be active on these platforms in order to best influence and educate the public about their health.

Most healthcare professions believe that educating patients is a crucial part of their job. Education may be specific to a field or it may be on a bigger public health platform. For example, if you want to educate the public that vaccines are safe, efficacious, and important, then you need to go to where the public is interacting. And you can interact with many more people from a social platform than you will ever be able to touch in your practice.

In order for health education to be received on social media both the platform and the target audience must be understood. This takes time, investment, and patience. However, the potential return on investment is high. Utilizing social media for education allows healthcare professionals to stand for something more than just themselves and their practice. It also allows growth on a more public stage and networking opportunities which otherwise may not have ever materialized without social media. The goal of AHSM is to help connect healthcare professionals with the tools they need to become successful in educating the public with social media.

References:

Fox S, Jones S. The social life of health information. June 2009. Available at: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/8-The-Social-Life-of-Health-Information/01-Summary-of-Findings.aspx. Accessed December 1, 2018