Perficient has created this series, “Responding to Healthcare Consumerism with Social Media” in order to identify the benefits and drawbacks of using social media and collaboration tools in healthcare, explore the doctor and patient communities currently interacting online, outline social media’s impact on the quality of care, and use current innovations to predict the future of social media collaboration in the healthcare industry.
While I don’t know many physicians that are still making house calls these days, I would venture to say that social media and collaborative technology tools have the power to bring patients and doctors together in a fashion similar to those old fashioned house calls. All of the mechanisms are in place to drive a fresh collaborative healthcare environment. As will be detailed in a future post, creating a high technology social environment where patients and physicians can interact can revolutionize the delivery of healthcare.
However, the current reality is much different than the sunny future I see ahead. Patients are online. Physicians are online. However, these two groups are running in different social circles. While many often get caught up in the “frivolity” of online and social media, this presents a true medical problem.
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Approximately one-third of adults in the US are using social media to collect health information. According to a recent Health Dialog survey, only 25% of individuals searching for health information online verified the source. Scarier yet, 58% of individuals surveyed assume a diagnosis based on the information they gathered online.
Welcoming physicians into this conversation would definitely help this issue, but many rightly believe that physicians, and healthcare organizations in general, have been slow to adopt social media into the practice of medicine. Based on the benefits and drawbacks highlighted in our earlier post in this series, I can understand why. However, the emergence of physicians navigating social media is progressing. It is my belief that the direction of this momentum could naturally progress into a new model for delivering healthcare.
Manhattan Research reported that 60% of physicians actively use social networks or are interested in social media. To date, there are 1327 physicians listed as doctors on Twitter using twitterdoctors.net. However, the real growth is being fueled by physician-only social networking sites like Sermo, Ozmosis, and SocialMD. The truth is that most doctors work in small practices, are overworked, and geographically dispersed. As a result, it is difficult for physicians to collaborate with other medical professionals. These physician-only social networking sites have offered a welcome refuge for learning and collaboration that help physicians filter through the overflow of health information they receive. Doctors are able to share favorite journal articles and research and participate in online forums. Many social media communities are now including education portals with CME courses and webinars. As these physicians collaborate in social networks, medical knowledge spreads more quickly, which results in faster adoption of the very best clinical practices. This results in better patient outcomes.
Sermo’s CEO, Daniel Palastrant, has been quoted as saying, “Physicians are actually turning to these mediums to better diagnose their patients and provide better care.”
Many brave MDs are now venturing out into the blogsphere and dispensing medical advice based on their experience and research. This is a great start. In the next post of the series, we will discuss how adding collaborative technologies to this existing social infrastructure, where patients are seeking more information and physicians are optimizing the care they deliver, can combine to impact the overall quality of care.