image of dumpster fire

Sometimes we look at social media and think to ourselves: “What a dumpster fire!” (Looking at you, Twitter.) And when you add healthcare to the mix, one might think: “Oh, great, now it’s a dumpster fire full of medical waste and biohazards!”

But social media can be a powerful tool for those in the medical and healthcare fields. Like it or not, social media networks have become a significant health information resource. Unfortunately, they’ve also become a source of disinformation.

For example, 76% of respondents to a survey said they used social media “at least a little” to learn about COVID-19. However, 63.6% said they were unlikely to check the information they found on social media with a health professional. (Source: NIH.) Too many of us cruise around looking for information that corroborates our initial biases, and once we find it, our "research" is done. Not good.

That's why it's crucial for healthcare professionals on social media to help inform the public and stop the spread of information that’s untrue. Sure, it can be tough navigating the challenges of social media in healthcare. It’s tricky creating engaging social content that’s timely, informative, and accurate while following healthcare rules and regulations, but it can be worth it. Here are some of the benefits of using social media in the medical and healthcare space.

Raising awareness. Social media is a great way to raise public awareness about new and emerging health concerns as well as breakthrough medicines, novel treatments, and best practices (how many of us can use a refresher course on proper hand-washing techniques?)

Combatting misinformation. There's a lot of crapola flying around the social media sphere. By providing sound information with credible sources, you can help fight the amount of bogus information floating around. Although debunking phony healthcare claims in social media might sound like a Sisyphean task, it's a battle worth fighting.

Crisis communication. Many of us remember the days of picking up a newspaper from the front doorstep in the morning to find out what was going on in the world. But now, more people get their news from social media than from newspapers, and for those under 30, social media is the most common news source. And that makes social media a great place to share breaking information. How many people do you know that go straight to Twitter to find out about breaking news? (The answer, for us, is a lot.)

The key to crisis communication is to have a plan before the crisis. Identify stakeholders and have a point of contact/spokesperson identified and trained. Have your social media networks up and running with regular content, so you have a built-in audience.

Answer common questions. Social media is a great way to allow your constituents to reach out to you with questions. And you can address frequently asked questions as a good source of content for your feed.

Source: National Institutes of Health

Comments: Ben Singleton