Is There A Place for Social Networking in Modern Healthcare Delivery?
I recently reviewed two reports that opined on the role that social networking should (and shouldn’t) play for healthcare providers, which gives food for thought to any professional.
The first report, Cooperation, Communication, Coordination: Three Pillars of Collaborative Teamwork from IDC Health Insights (April 2012), reviews the “transformation of the healthcare delivery model.”
Of the “four Cs” of effective teamwork, social networking is listed as a key area for healthcare providers, noting that the medium is useful in “health and wellness, disease management, clinical trial recruitment, maintenance of personal health records, treatment, hospital and physician selection, and other important aspects of healthcare delivery.”
The authors, Jan Duffy and Silvia Piai, note that in particular staff shortages, cost constraints and service demands have increased the need for more efficient and effective communications. This led the IDC research team to predict that mobile technology, providing access to data on the go, and social networking among providers to be an essential ingredient to the evolving healthcare delivery model.
Where it appears social networking does not belong is between patient and provider. In a Sophos blog this week, Lisa Vaas reports on how hospital administrators, concerned about the lack of professionalism and data leakage, are recommending healthcare providers do not set up relationships with patients in social networking sites (in particular she lists Facebook and Twitter).
This cautionary approach is echoed by policy guidelines that the American Medical Association drafted this year titled Professionalism in the Use of Social Media. The policy is well thought out and while it does not recommend complete abstinence from social networking, it does offer cautions of how to best use the medium and maintain professionalism. Noting the need for appropriate boundaries, ethics, the need to monitor, and if need be, to have unprofessional content posted by colleagues taken down, these guidelines would be useful to anyone who is in a business-to-client, or to-customer relationship. It is worthy of a read, if only to remind us of our own need to protect our online reputations.
Vaas also points to a study (PDF), published last August by QuantiaMD, an online community for physicians, that upon surveying over 4,000 clinicians concluded that over 65% of physicians are using social media for professional purposes.
I suspect that number will grow rapidly over the next few years. Last summer, the Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted a study called, Social Networking Sites and Our Lives. The report was authored by Keith Hampton and revealed that more people are using social networking sites. Hampton says “the figure is now 47% of the entire adult population, compared with 26% that was measured in our similar 2008 survey. Among other things, this means the average age of adult social networking site users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010. Over half of all adult social networking site users are now over the age of 35.”
As with many trends, the bleed over from personal life to professional life will mean that social networking will continue to rise in the professional realm as people become more and more comfortable with the medium.
Social networking may be a road to enhanced patient care, but it may not be a primary element in patient-provider communications.
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