January 20, 2022

Social Media and the Health System

Social Media and the Health System

As early as 1960, Sidney Garfield, MD, the co-founder of Kaiser Permanente (KP), foresaw how computers would become powerful tools to help patients. It is in his maverick spirit that we examine the potential for social media to be powerful tools to help our patients today.

Social media, or content created and exchanged within virtual communities through the use of online tools, are used by millions of people to converse and to connect. Health systems can use social media to engage members and potential members by building trust and making large organizations more accessible and approachable. Social media can help patients manage their chronic conditions and make healthy choices; it also can accelerate knowledge acquisition and dissemination for patients and clinicians.

Health and health care organizations are popular topics in social media conversations, and both positive and negative stories shared through online networks can have an enormous reach. KP experienced this in 2006, after unfavorable media coverage of the KP HealthConnect® electronic health record system emerged on social media sites. Positive messages can also spread as has been the case of the KP Thrive advertisement “When I Grow Up,” which was hosted on the social network video site YouTube. The video portrayed images of active women seniors alongside a message promoting mammography that attracted more than 125,000 views garnering significant attention from repeat viewers and women in the target demographic of 55 and older.

Although there are risks for health systems to participate in social media, there are also risks in not participating. In a patient-centered model of health care, absence from social networks that are important to patients might lead to a gap between patients and clinicians. In this article, we will focus on the promise of social networking and review potential risks of both participation and abstention.

Source: The Permanente Journal