Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Social Media in Medicine III

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Most physicians are now aware of Social Media. The game is still out if it will be incorporated into medical practice or hospitals. It has it's serious flaws in regard to privacy and HIPAA regulations. Apart from that restriction Social Media offers many choices and possible applications for a medical practice (clinic) or hospital setting,

Social media is a highly fluid niche. What began as a recreational hobby has evolved into a digital medium which has caught the eye of venture capital and others in the internet space.

Billions of dollars are being poured into startup ventures and some established media sites that have piddling cash flow at the moment. Their forecasted value is based upon world wide exposure and the attendant potential for advertising revenues. Most of the social media sites remain private equity companies while some are looking at IPOs. (Facebook).

Several social media sites have become lightening rods attracting companies building on APIs (application programming interface). (that is another story)

How are most practices dealing with this new phenomenon? It is a far cry from AOL's “You've Got Mail !!”

Many are dabbling with building their own Facebook pages, Twitter identities, and Blogs. Few physicians are either expert enough or have disposable time to dedicate to the medium personally.

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There are several 'big time' medical bloggers such as KevinMD who are a presence enough to be inteviewed by TV media, or published in the Wall Street Journal and other classical newsprint media. His blog has attracted enough industry attention and is monetized to deliver cash flow. His posts are repeated across other blogging venues and ranks very high in Google's search algorithm, and without SEO. (search engine optimization)

Physicians are a curious lot, especially when it comes to technology. Others are more intent on patient care and have little time to devote to this area. Personally I have enjoyed exploring and using social media, but then I am retired from clinical practice.

Some familiarity is in order to plan if and when your practice should enter social media, and how you will use it.

Social media challenges medicine in it's use of arcane acronyms (abbreviations) as a 'secret' insider code. There are glossaries for Twitter acronyms and other social media sites. 1 2 3 .

Sage advice would be to have an 'expert' build your site. One of your children probably is expert at this, if not there are many teenagers or young adults who are willing to do this for very little money or for just the 'resume builder”. Elance.com is a freelancer writer web job board where many aspiring social media designers and writers congregate.

Dailly posting should be relegated to a knowledgable ghost writer. Most are willing to work for about $5.00/ day (one post) It is as easy as dictating into your PC or laptop and sending the post as an mp3 file via and attachment email or an Instant messaging file. If you don't know how to do that, ask one of your kids, or younger employees.

Motivation for Medical Social Media Sites in a survey found that 94 percent of respondents have used Facebook to gather information on their healthcare, 32 percent used YouTube, 18 percent used Twitter and MySpace 2 percent used FourSquare, a location-based website. Key findings of the NRC survey: (National Research Corporation)

  • When asked about social media's influence, one in four respondents said it was "very likely" or "likely" to impact their future healthcare decisions.

  • When asked for their level of trust in social media, 32 percent said "very high" or "high," and only 7.5 percent said "very low."

  • Respondents still backed hospital websites are the premiere source of online healthcare information with one in two preferring heath provider websites to any source. Fourteen percent preferred an integrated approach of hospital websites and social media combined. Three percent preferred only social media.

Another survey of Type II diabetic patients and weight loss surgery found that social media was used as a tool to spread information about patients' experiences with bariatric surgery and its benefits. Business intelligence company Wool.labs used its technology WebDig to track every conversation accessible on the Internet and determined the trends among diabetes patients and healthcare providers as related to options to help manage diabetes including bariatric surgery.

The study found diabetes patients who had tried bariatric surgery used social media outlets to advocate for the procedure and show how it had positively impacted their Type II diabetes. "We believe that the patient wave of support in social media has helped push diabetes surgery into mainstream acceptance faster," said Michele Bennett, chief operating officer of Wool.labs. "In this instance, we believe patients are leading the way and it will be interesting to see how far physicians and the industry will take it from here.

A report, which was conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation, found that only 62 percent of adults living with chronic disease go online, compared with 81 percent of adults who report no chronic diseases. Lack of Internet access, not lack of interest in the topic, is the primary reason for the gap, according to the report. In fact, when demographic factors are controlled, Internet users living with chronic disease are slightly more likely than other Internet users to access health information online and

"We can now add chronic disease to the list of attributes which have an independent, negative effect on someone's likelihood to have Internet access, along with age, education, and income level," says Kristen Purcell, an associate director of the Pew Internet Project and a co-author of the report.

According to the report, more than any other group, people living with chronic disease remain strongly connected to offline sources of medical assistance and advice such as health professionals, friends, family and books. However, once they have Internet access, people living with chronic disease report significant benefits from the health resources found online.

"The deck is stacked against people living with chronic disease. They are disproportionately offline. They often have complicated health issues, not easily solved by the addition of even the best, most reliable, medical advice," says Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Pew Internet Project and a co-author of the report. "But those who are online have a trump card. They have each other. Those who have access use the Internet like a secret weapon, unearthing and sharing nuggets of information found online."

Looking at the population as a whole, 51 percent of American adults living with chronic disease have looked online for any of the health topics included in the survey, such as information about a specific disease, a certain medical procedure, or health insurance. By comparison, 66 percent of adults who report no chronic conditions use the Internet to gather health information.

The report found that information about prescription or over-the-counter drugs is the topic that draws the most significant interest among Internet users living with chronic disease, compared with other Internet users.

 

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