Over the last year and a half, as COVID-19 has prevented scores of people from safely interacting in person with their family, friends, coworkers, and more, people have turned to social media in droves, not only to foster a connection, but oftentimes for medical information. So, what are the ins and outs of using social media as a medical professional? We break it down below.
It’s no secret that the internet—particularly, social media—is a place where unchecked information masquerading as fact is allowed to mostly run rampant. From anti-vaxxers to pseudoscience loyalists, social media is full of people who make your job more difficult every single day, by spreading falsehoods and, in the worst cases, putting lives at risk with their irresponsible and uninformed claims. And while it may be tempting to go on a CAPS LOCK heavy or profanity laden rant when you see this happening, it would be better to counter by debunking myths and discrediting claims using your knowledge of medical science—and, maybe, have a few medical journals at the ready for citing. Use social media to be an authoritative voice for facts online and a source of knowledge for the public.
While giving blanket medical advice on the internet is never a great idea, you can use your specialized knowledge to raise awareness about medical issues or conditions, in addition to the aforementioned debunking of misinformation. Consider this a preemptive strike against falsehoods, if you will. If you work in cardiology, for instance, you can take to social media to discuss heart-healthy nutrition, or the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. In ENT? Discuss fall risks, the dangers of undiagnosed sleep apnea, or maybe share your local allergen information on a weekly basis. As a bonus, if you share online with any regularity, it can begin to build a brand for yourself or your practice as experts in your specialty, while also raising awareness in the general population and driving locals to your practice.
Connect with Patients
Nearly 90% of older adults have used social media to seek and share health information, and 40% of young adults have turned to online tools to connect with others over their health challenges. Your patients are no exception. Engage with them on social media, where they already are, to not only augment clinical care, but to help educate, as well as provide support.
Expose Patient Information
Obviously, by working in healthcare, you are intimately familiar with industry rules and regulations regarding patient privacy. This applies just as much, if not more so, online. It should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: never, ever, ever, ever, ever disclose protected health information online in any capacity. Ever. And definitely do not share pictures or videos of patients online, unless a patient has given their consent in writing. For one, it’s a HIPAA violation, and it also isn’t doing you any favors in looking like a professional people can trust.
Not too long ago, news broke of a hospital in Maine coming under fire after a “wall of shame”, aimed at mocking and humiliating disabled patients, was discovered and exposed by one of their own employees. Don’t do that. Or anything like that. In real life or online. Do not shame your patients for getting vaccinated, or even for not getting vaccinated. Do not fat shame your patients. Do not shame your patients for their level of wealth or poverty. Do not shame them for their disabilities. Do not shame your patients. Patients are entrusting you with their medical care, and in some cases, their lives, and it is your responsibility, no matter how trying they may be, or how exhausted you are, to be a consummate professional and not slander them in any way.
Bash Your Employer
Nothing online is 100% private. Anything you post online, even on a private Facebook or Twitter page, can be screen captured by someone with less than honorable intentions and it can get back to your employer. Be careful what you say online, as it can make all the difference between gainful employment and an unexpected job search—or even a lawsuit.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.