Doc. I Don’t Feel Good. I Will Tweet You My Symptoms!

When I think of social media, I think of industries like IT, retail, and food & beverage, just to name a few. But after talking to my mom one night after work, it was clear that I had a thing or two to learn. My mom, who has been a pediatric Registered Nurse (RN) for 26 years, has worked at the same doctor’s office for 22 of those years. Although my mom does work on the floor from time to time, her primary role is to run the nurses hotline. Parents call in and speak to my mom about their children’s medical prognosis, treatment, or with medical questions they might have. That evening, we were casually discussing how healthcare has evolved since I was a baby. My mom stated that during her 26 years as an RN, she has seen tremendous changes in healthcare, ranging from new equipment to EHR/EMR transitions. Just when I thought she was going to tell me about some new gadget the doctor’s at her office bought, she started talking about how she can’t keep up with all of the posts parents are making to the practice’s Facebook page. I almost fell out of my chair.

180 Degrees. Industries like retail are not the only ones that have been transformed by social media. In fact, the impact social media tools have made to healthcare has caused the industry to do a 180. When parents have a question to ask a nurse, they simply post a question on Facebook and expect an answer back via Facebook. The nurses “hotline” is becoming more obsolete by the day because the way in which people want to receive information has changed completely.

I Trust My Peers. People are also turning to social media for answers because they want to hear from their peers. In an article regarding social media and healthcare, a writer for talks about a valuable 2011 report from Susannah Fox titled “Peer to Peer Healthcare.” The report reveals that those suffering from chronic illnesses tend to reach out to others quite frequently via social media platforms in order to obtain advice about managing their illness, compare symptoms, seek advice, and find instances of other unusual conditions.

And So the Bandwagon Grows. Hospitals have jumped on the bandwagon too! Notable examples include Cleveland Clinics’ blog, appropriately titled “The Beating Edge.” This particular blog focuses on heart and cardio vascular problems and is written by cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. The Boston Children’s Hospital is currently leveraging social media to make announcements regarding events. Notable healthcare related hashtags are now a mainstay on Twitter, as many people are engaging in “tweet-ups” in order to gain healthcare insight.

Speaking of Twitter . . . This particular social media platform also has clinical applications. Some hospitals are now leveraging Twitter as a teaching mechanism; during surgery, someone is tweeting each step in the process, as it occurs. This really takes the term “live tweeting” to a new level. While this notion initially seemed a bit outrageous to me, if you do the math is actually makes sense. Students currently in medical school spent part of their teen years immersed in social media, which helps explain a new phenomenon like this.

Healthcare Professionals Need Jobs Too. “Business people” are not the only ones using LinkedIn to find jobs. While many healthcare specific recruiting and professional sites do exist, healthcare professionals have a significant presence on LinkedIn. Upon reading an article regarding this particular topic, I wanted to verify the claims. I logged into LinkedIn, typed in “healthcare administrator,” and received 366 hits. I typed in “RN” and received 1,435 hits. Lastly, I typed in “Physician” and received 2,081 hits. My very own research laid any doubts I had to rest.

There is no question that leveraging social media in the healthcare industry has afforded patients, doctors, administrators etc. the opportunity to communicate and interact in a whole new way.