There are numerous applications for social media in healthcare, including raising awareness and disseminating correct health information.
The mix of social media with healthcare is quite effective. Social media has evolved into a valuable health and information resource. They can, however, become a source of misinformation.
For example, 76 percent of survey respondents indicated they learned about COVID-19 by using social media “at least a bit.” However, 63.6 percent stated they were unlikely to consult a health expert about information they received on social media.
On social media, healthcare practitioners can both enlighten the public and aid to prevent the spread of false information.
It’s difficult to know how to handle the social media problems in healthcare. Social content must be engaging for providers, agencies, and brands. This content must be educational, timely, and accurate. At the same time, you must adhere to all applicable laws and regulations.
We’ll look at the various advantages of using social media in healthcare in this piece. We also offer some advice on how to maintain your social media outlets secure and compliant.
Benefits of social media in healthcare
The use of social media to raise public awareness about new, developing, and annual health issues is critical.
“Immunization, flu virus, treatment, ebola, you name it, health care systems must deliver credible information.” Michael Yoder is the source of this sound advice. He works with Spectrum Health as a social media consultant.
It can be as basic as reminding followers of common sense health measures to raise awareness. Alternatively, addressing prevalent issues about healthy living.
Because you can target specific population groups, it can also be a useful tool for public outreach campaigns:
When things change quickly, however, social media is an important tool for keeping the public informed about the latest issues, recommendations, and advisories. Sharing information directly in your social media postings is one approach to get the word out.
Another viable method is to use social media to guide followers to reliable current-information sources. This might include directing them to your website or social media profiles dedicated to public health.
Increasing your followers’ awareness of reputable sources makes it easier for them to respond to incorrect healthcare social media claims they encounter in posts from their own social connections.
On that topic, let’s address the elephant in the room when it comes to healthcare communication via social media: disinformation.
By their very nature, social media aids in the rapid dissemination of information to a wide range of people. That’s excellent when the information is accurate, useful, and easy to understand.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation about health on social media.
Misinformation can also take the shape of false statements. These are relatively simple to disprove. Simply quote published research or the most up-to-date information from a reputable health organization such as the CDC or WHO.
However, some disinformation authors and disseminators would adopt the name of a respectable institution to lend legitimacy to their claims.
In this scenario, it’s critical for the referenced institution to state that they are not the source.
However, there is misinformation in the form of “facts” that are offered without context or in the wrong context. Again, the ideal method is to cite research and information from reliable sources. However, this may necessitate a gentler approach. People are much more likely to believe information that confirms their current perspective.
Dr. Peter Hotez told the American Medical Association, “Sometimes I’ll use [Twitter] to call out clear errors.” “However, I’ll usually use it to communicate my thoughts on a major or emergent sickness.”
People nowadays prefer to acquire their news through social media rather than newspapers. Social media is the most prevalent source of news for persons aged 29 and younger, outnumbering all other information sources. As a result, social media is an important platform for sharing breaking news.
People relied on government health officials for information throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. During this moment of crisis, Canadian provincial medical health officers have efficiently employed social media and healthcare communication.
For example, the government of British Columbia continues to hold press conferences to keep the public informed about the newest pandemic news and measures. The press briefings are broadcast live on Facebook Live as well as on traditional news sites.
Those who don’t have access to local TV programmes might watch live video on social media platforms to get real-time announcements.
Pinnable posts and cover photos can also connect users to important resources at a glance.
In a time of crisis, managing and distributing health information is especially difficult. Advance planning, according to the American Health Lawyers Association, the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, and the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, is essential for a successful crisis response.
To assist you in your preparation, below are some of their major points:
- Determine who the major stakeholders are, as well as a primary contact and a spokesperson.
- In the first five minutes of a crisis, know what to do.
- Develop a relationship of trust with your audience, including your internal audience.
Medical journals and conferences are frequently used by medical practitioners to learn about new knowledge and best practices. These existing information-sharing platforms can benefit from the use of social media to broaden their reach.
The European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) established a series of webinars after canceling in-person activities for 2020. They broadcast the webinars live on YouTube and Facebook, in addition to having a dedicated website. They also used Twitter to live-tweet the happenings.
ESICM was taken aback when they discovered that some of their most devoted visitors were from outside of Europe. They would not have been able to reach this audience through in-person events.
Answer common questions
Health authorities and healthcare organizations are valuable sources of information on a variety of health issues.
Healthcare practitioners can use social media to come up with new methods to answer frequent questions. The World Health Organization, for example, created a Facebook Messenger chatbot. It can provide answers to inquiries, point citizens to appropriate resources, and dispel disinformation.
Public health monitoring
People post about everything, including their health, on the internet. Hashtags like #the flu can indicate when diseases appear in unexpected places. Public health organizations can even obtain a sense of the severity of symptoms using the correct social media monitoring technologies.
For example, a study published in spring 2020 identified a link between the amount of telehealth-related Tweets and the number of verified COVID-19 cases in a given state.
In their book, Social Monitoring for Public Health: A Practical Guide, Professors Michael Paul and Mark Dredze explain how this works.
“In comparison to traditional data sources, social media provides real-time data availability, ease of access, and cost savings. We can now ask and answer questions we never dreamed imaginable because of social media.”
Health data from social media has improved disease prediction, according to a recent review research. This is especially true when it comes to the flu and flu-like diseases.
In addition, according to a study published in the Annual Review of Public Health:
“While Twitter is by far the most popular platform for digital monitoring, numerous others have also been employed.” For example, Facebook “like” patterns have been linked to a variety of health issues and habits, and Instagram timelines have been used to detect bad drug reactions.”
Outbreaks Near Me, a crowdsourcing health data effort, can also benefit from social media.
Even with doctors, discussing healthcare issues can be difficult. This is especially true when it comes to topics like mental health, where social stigma can deter people from seeking professional help.
Using the hashtag #LightenTheLoad, JanSport published a series of tools during the outbreak. The backpack company’s purpose was to help its young clients, but that wasn’t the case starting in the 2020 back-to-school season.
They gave young people access to mental health resources through the campaign, which included a series of Instagram Live sessions with licensed therapists.
This is an excellent example of how healthcare practitioners may collaborate on social media with brands outside of the healthcare industry.
They also gave folks information on how to get crisis help if they needed it.
Here’s another illustration. Under the title The Fight Is In Us, a partnership of over 1,000 organizations and healthcare institutions started a campaign. The idea was to persuade persons who had recovered from COVID-19 to give their plasma in exchange for the valuable antibodies it contained.
The campaign reached 3.95 million people through a series of celebrity-based advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
Nearly 40% of young people (aged 14 to 22) have utilized online resources to connect with others who are dealing with comparable health issues. This includes online communities.
This link has the potential to be extremely beneficial to patients. The effects of Facebook and WhatsApp groups in aiding veterans with PTSD were investigated in a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Many of the study participants described how they got support from these organizations:
“I messaged the group at 10 p.m. and received immediate responses.” The group is aware of the situation. Yes, we’re really familiar with each other.”
“If I leave the WhatsApp group, I’ll get a message from the administrator asking, ‘What happened, everything okay?’ If you want to leave, you’ll have to go through someone. You have to say what’s going on, even if you don’t want to.”
When it comes to discussing health online, there are, of course, privacy considerations. This could be a fantastic way to make use of Facebook private groups, which are hidden from search results. Users must be invited to participate.
Social media sites provide a way to connect with people who might be interested in participating in a study or a survey.
Researchers and healthcare institutions, like businesses, must be aware of social media demographics. When combined with social ad targeting tools, you can reach out to the proper people for studies and surveys.
The University of California San Diego is working on a project called Connected & Open Research Ethics. The programme assists researchers in developing ethical research criteria for new digital tools. Among these tools are social networking sites.
In 2020, 62% of healthcare marketers in the United States see social media as the most promising marketing channel.
CVS and WebMD collaborated on a Twitter campaign that benefited both companies. CVS sponsored WebMD content, including a bespoke Twitter Amplify collaboration that resulted in CVS receiving 30-million pre-roll video ad views.
Social media tips for healthcare organizations
As previously said, many individuals look to social media for disaster information. Conversations around health and wellbeing on Twitter surged by 54% at the start of 2020.
However, if you want to maintain a long-term relationship with the public, you must give valuable content that educates and informs them on a regular basis.
The Mayo Clinic, for example, produces a social video series that covers popular health and wellness subjects. The “Mayo Clinic Minutes” are concise, educational, and entertaining. The videos frequently receive over 10,000 views.
Of course, the information must be reliable. That is correct. However, if it makes sense for your brand, you can be innovative and amusing.
Dr. Zubin Damania, for example, is known as ZDoggMD on social media. His well-made social videos deliver useful health information while debunking false and misleading claims. On his Facebook profile, he has amassed a following of almost 2.3 million people.
Make sure the tone you select is in line with the personality of your company. Both the Mayo Clinic and Doc Vader videos are entertaining in their own right. However, if they switched styles, it would be startling.
Also, make sure you select the appropriate medium for your message and target audience. According to a recent Saudi Arabian study, the most popular social networks for sharing healthy eating advice are:
You may use social listening to keep track of pertinent social media talks in your field.
These discussions can help you learn more about how people feel about you, your company, and your products and services. You can also find out how they feel about the competition by asking them. You might even come up with new ideas to steer your social media strategy.
To acquire a sense of how the public is reacting to emerging health issues, social listening is an effective application of social media in healthcare.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), for example, employs social listening to keep track of health trends. They were able to validate telehealth as a priority as a result of the 2,000 mentions of the term on social media.
“We already knew GPs thought this was a component of treatment they needed to continue offering to patients,” the RACGP added. “We used our social listening insights to confirm that the general practice community shared our sentiments.”
Here are some essential terms to keep an eye out for on social media:
- Name and contact information for your business or practise
- Names of your products, including typical misspellings
- Brand names, product names, and handles of your competitors
- Buzzwords in the industry: It’s a good idea to start with the Healthcare Hashtag Project.
- Yours and your competitors’ slogans
- Names of important persons in your company (your CEO, spokesperson, etc.)
- Names of significant figures in your competitors’ businesses
- Campaign names or buzzwords
- Hashtags that are associated with you and those that are associated with your competitors
Hootsuite and other social media management solutions allow you to track all important keywords and phrases across all social networks from one location.
Check out our article on how to set up a social listening strategy for more information and tools.
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One of the most significant issues of social media in healthcare is that healthcare social media accounts are governed by tight guidelines. HIPAA compliance is critical, but you must also adhere to FDA advertising regulations.
Kim Kardashian is one of the most well-known examples of social media and healthcare colliding in the eyes of authorities. In her Instagram post, she promoted the morning sickness medication Diclegis. Her message included a link to risk warnings as well as usage restrictions. However, the FDA decided that this information should be included in the post itself.
She had to replace the post after receiving a severe FDA warning. Following the FDA’s warning, here’s an updated version:
Pharma companies had found out how to successfully add danger warnings within a video post by the time Kim’s sister Khloe Kardashian supported the migraine drug Nurtec ODT on Twitter this year:
However, celebrity endorsements aren’t the only source of FDA worry. For example, the FDA has issued 21 warning letters so far in 2021 that directly refer to claims made on Instagram accounts.
You don’t want your social media postings to be written by lawyers. However, you may wish to have your posts reviewed by lawyers (or other compliance specialists) before they go live. This is especially true for important announcements or highly sensitive messages.
A social media plan and a social media style guide are required for your company.
You should also establish guidelines for healthcare professionals’ use of social media. It’s also a good idea to have a social media policy for healthcare professionals.
These are useful for getting everyone on the same page and ensuring that your strategy follows all applicable rules and regulations. Include explicit, HIPAA-compliant instructions for dealing with patient data in social media posts.
Keep an eye on the comments that others write on your social media postings and accounts, as well. These can also raise questions about compliance.
Responding to and engaging with social comments is always a good idea. After all, no one enjoys conversing with an empty room. If your followers receive a reaction from a member of your team, they are more inclined to engage with your material.
When it comes to compliance, you may need to take extra precautions. You should, for example, delete any comments that pose privacy issues. Keep an eye out for claims that aren’t acceptable.
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It’s critical to establish security policies for your healthcare social media outlets. If someone leaves the company, you must be able to withdraw their access.
Integrating your healthcare social media marketing channels might help protect them even more. AETracker, for example, can assist you in locating and reporting issues such as product complaints and off-label usage. You’ll be informed as events unfold, allowing you to take immediate action.
Social Safeguard can assist you in screening your social media posts for compliance with your social media policy. Non-compliant posts aren’t allowed to go live as a result of this.
Simply said, patients and the general public utilise social media to locate healthcare information. They use it to discover information, get help, and make medical decisions.
In the field of healthcare, social media presents several difficulties. However, the use of social media in healthcare opens up a world of new possibilities.
Social media is an excellent tool for disseminating vital health information. It’s also a great site to get up-to-date research and information. Most importantly, social media provides an easy-to-use and fast means of providing assistance to patients and the general public.