Is social media the remedy for healthcare?
1. Participation by doctors, nurses and people in-the-know is needed.
I agree with Dr. Peter Carmel, president of the AMA, who said in the recent New York Times story, “Advice for the Ill, and Points for the Doctors,” that online medical information should “complement, not replace, the communication between a patient and their physician.”
Despite this, I am against what he says with his assessment that providing health information without a full medical history being taken or in the absence of a physical exam, in other words without actually going to see a doctor: “could pose a threat to patients.”
The doctor-patient relationship is remarkably different from that of what is going on in online sites, the roles of the two are nothing like one another. The online health community is meant to take on the responsibility of informing consumers and giving them orientation, better preparing them for when they need to go see their doctor.
A whole bunch of studies have been done on the average duration of a visit to the doctors and the average has been set at roughly 13 minutes. Also, studies show what those patients do in that time and it has been shown that the average patient asks 2 questions and in a lot of cases, perplexingly, no questions at all.
There is a huge advantage of providing consumers and patients-to-be with more information online. If there were more people in-the-know who were at the backend of this side of the operation, then I believe that the average persons visit to the doctor could be used much more efficiently.
2. Transparency is key in healthcare information.
Patients-to-be and consumers should be able to easily access extensive profile information about the people providing medical advice online. It should be possible for them to be able to see if they’re licensed and physicians and legitimate health workers (including their board certification), along with their years in practice, disciplinary history, education, patient and peer reviews, and employer information and contact information, so basically it would be good to get down the profiles of these professionals and have a system like that on other sites that show us in an easy fashion that these people are verified. Too many sites don’t provide this, and as a result, consumers get advice from medical students, or worse, a random with no medical credentials or experience at all!
The web is pretty good at weeding out the junk and promoting good content and you can tell if a website can be trusted if it values and provides a sufficient level of transparency.
The medical industry has a long way to go when it comes to integrating social media (and also technology as a whole, but that’s another topic), so we have to focus on how we can go about providing safer and more trustworthy information on health online, instead of regarding the whole issue as useless and dismissing the whole cause out of fear and doubt. We might be able to get more for less in doing so.