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Doctors: Should they be using social media?

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, the Boston Globe published an article which discussed the pros and cons of doctors using social media for professional business. While social media can be a wonderful tool for health care organizations in general, this medium becomes increasingly difficult to navigate when health care professionals are using it to discuss patient information online. Patient privacy is a huge issue in any field relating to health care, and anyone working in an environment that could potentially put them in contact with patient information is required to be trained in the HIPPA privacy rule. Although health care practitioners are well aware of these rules and laws related to the privacy of patient information, the nature of social media itself makes it easy to “forget” those commitments to patient privacy. Social media is fast, easy to use, and has global reach — consequently, a doctor or nurse making one simple post on Twitter or Facebook about a patient can easily translate to a huge breach of privacy.

So, should health care providers be using social media in a professional setting? Can they use it in a way that is informative yet abides by privacy laws? Can/should they be trained in the responsible use of social media at work? Does social media fall within the scope of their practice?

Many of these questions have yet to be answered, but they will certainly be relevant as the worlds of social media and healthcare continue to intersect. Until then, here is a helpful list of tips and tricks for healthcare providers seeking to navigate social media.

  1. Google yourself
  2. Manage your image / create your own content
  3. Separate the personal from the professional
  4. Avoid communicating directly with patients through social media
  5. “See the good”
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Google Health: A foray into electronic medical records

March 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Even though I’ve been using a Google account for years now, I was never aware of the Google Health tool until I read this (albeit three year-old) article on Mashable.

Google Health iconElectronic medical records (EMRs) are just one way that health care organizations are emerging into the world of internet technology and social media. Like other social media applications, EMRs allow patients/users to share their [health] information with a wide range of people – other patients, physicians, specialists, personal caregivers, etc.

Google Health seems to be a fairly user-friendly application in terms of EMRs. Patients can utilize tools in four main categories: their personal Health profile, importing of medical records, exploring online health services, and even a doctor search. Patients can now simply update their health information as it changes, and then print out the page to take to a doctor’s appointment (instead of struggling to remember minute changes in their health routines – i.e. new vitamins/supplements/exercise – like the majority of us do!).

Although it’s likely that most patients will use Google Health for their personal information, this application can also be used to manage the information of other people that someone may be caring for – such as an older parent who might not be familiar with the Internet.

I haven’t exactly seen or heard any marketing for Google Health yet, which is unfortunate because it seems like a highly useful, easy-to-use system that can benefit patients and providers alike.

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The basics of health and eCommunication

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Being in the Health Communication program, I’m always looking for ways to tie health issues into elective courses I may be taking in other departments. Although most posts on this blog seem to be strictly marketing/advertising related, the healthcare industry is starting to make big strides in the world of social media. This article on Mashable.com gives the basics on why increasing numbers of health experts are turning to social media, and what that means for us as patients and consumers.

These days, approximately 90% online Americans are searching the Internet for health information, yet it’s taken this particular industry a long time to embrace the possibilities of social media and eCommunication. Presumably this is largely due to privacy issues, and the long-standing tradition of healthcare professionals being these “all-knowing” people; communication in healthcare has traditionally been a one-way, top-down process.

More recently, however, healthcare practitioners are beginning to understand that if their patients are looking online for health information, they – as the professionals – should be online too. Many are lending their knowledge and expertise to sites like Facebook and Twitter, blogging, and contributing to health forums. Not to mention the thousands of hospitals, non-profits, and other healthcare organizations worldwide that are utilizing these social media tools as well…but that’s best saved for another post.

So – what does this mean for us as patients and social media users?

(1) Increased interaction with experts

(2) Increased credibility and trust of healthcare professionals

(3) Transparency in the healthcare industry

The health field is only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media and eCommunication. Stay tuned for future interactive eHealth communication news!

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