Health Care Providers and Social Media
It has been shown that networking through social media benefits the professional careers of health care providers. While professionals in specialties such as cardiology may have limited peer support at their institutions, Twitter and Facebook can provide near-instantaneous support from professionals with similar backgrounds miles away. As support is readily available from online communities that face common problems, colleagues are able to share their experiences and help brainstorm solutions to workplace problems that improve patient outcomes.
Clinicians can enhance management of care by using new technologies for both group and individual patient interaction. A study published in Early Intervention in Psychiatry found the usage of social media for patient-clinician interactions aided in symptom management.
Additionally, a recent virtual community forum designed to promote patient engagement resulted in improved patient and caregiver satisfaction with patient care and feeling more supported. In an online community, patients and caregivers are able ask questions and receive rapid responses from their providers.
A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that using social media during public health crises enhanced accurate information dissemination to the public. Another study, published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, showed that information can be shared by health care providers instantly and in many visual forms such as images, charts and videos.
Social media may also aid in professional development of health care providers through enhancing recruitment, retention, and shared mission and vision within organizations such as the ACC. The ACC even provides a toolkit (Figure 1, below) for ACC CV Team Section members to help them understand the ins and outs of Twitter. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ACCCVTeam when you tweet.
The ACC has also made an ACC Women in Cardiology Section toolkit, with #ACCWIC being one of the most used hashtags for networking. Social media sites — especially LinkedIn — provide platforms to rapidly build professional reputations and academic portfolios. Individuals with shared interest who initially network online can arrange to meet later in person at professional conferences.
Furthermore, social media enhances professional education and student advocacy. Online courses often incorporate Facebook and Twitter to prompt discussions among students on topics such as health policy, patient privacy and professional ethics that are relevant to success in their future careers.
Online communities may be used to help students gain a greater proficiency in professional communication and technical writing competencies. Instructional Youtube videos are also easily restricted to teach specific student audiences or widely disseminated by students and faculty as a vehicle for issue advocacy and social change.
Support extended via social media may help health care providers balance professional and personal roles. Personal coping skills needed with sensitive workplace issues can be fostered through relationships with online mentors who previously encountered similar barriers such as burnout, discrimination, sexual harassment and gender parity.
In mentally and emotionally challenging professions, online sharing of how to balance careers with personal and family commitments provides support to newcomers in the health care arena. A study published in the Computers in Human Behavior found that job satisfaction was positively associated with social media interactions between coworkers and should be encouraged in the workplace.
Benefits of social media may be less publicized with the spotlight often falling on security breaches, cyberstalking, catfishing scams and unhealthy behaviors going viral. However, social media networking can remain positive if clear interaction boundaries and consequences of unprofessional behavior are imbedded in the virtual platform.
As a major national force, health care providers are challenged to be advocates for legislation to regulate abuse of social media. Behavior will remain forever documented in the cloud and health care providers have a leading responsibility to uphold a positive professional online presence.
Visit ACC.org to learn more and stay in touch with the College’s social media.
This article was authored by Elizabeth D. Lee, PhD, APRN, ACNS-BC, CNE, assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Little Rock, AR, and Elizabeth Riley, MNSc, RNC-NIC, CNE, professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Little Rock, AR.