The definition of "social media" is broad and undergoing constant evolution. This term usually refers to online-based tools that enable individuals and groups to collect and interact; exchange ideas and information, images, private messages, and several other content (Greenwood, Perrin & Duggan, 2016). Also, in some cases, social media helps to collaborate in real-time with other people in the same field. For health care professionals (HCPs), several social media resources are available, including forums, social networking websites, microblogs, wikis, gaming environments with virtual reality themes. These sources can be used to increase the professional understanding and networking, promotion of organisation, clinical care, health care education, and public health initiatives (Ventola, 2014). In the last nine years, the general public's engagement in social media has risen dramatically. Social media is used by people of all ages and occupations, and is common across the world. In this essay, the harms and the benefits of social media usage by the HCPs have been discussed. Social media have helped the health care sector, both the health care providers and the patients in various ways. However, t is always good for the health care professional to maintain the code for professional conduct which can not harm the public in social terms and privacy is not breached.
Social networking sites have an assortment of features which serve different purposes for the individuals and health care professionals. The platform includes forums, social networking sites, platforms for photos and video sharing, wikis, that can be deliberately clustered, serving purposes such as social networking. It includes online sites (MySpace, Google Plus, Facebook, Twitter), image sharing (Flickr, YouTube), professional networking (LinkedIn), content production and microblogs.
Uses of social media by healthcare workers- Social networking provides opportunities for HCPs to share information, practice problems, debate healthcare strategies and encourage healthy practices, connect with patients and public alike. It also helps to inform and connect about the health updates to colleagues, patients, carers, and students. HCPs can use the platform effectively to increase the health outcomes, make a supportive network, raise awareness of warnings and outcomes, inspire patients and public health information providers (Dickson, & Holley, 2010). Most commonly doctors join internet communities in which they can understand medical articles and journals, listen to the experts of the field, clinical trends, work collaboratively on patients’ concerns with coworkers, and connect with them. At this platform they share ideas and patient cases, discuss practical management problems, make connections, disseminate their research, encourage activities or take part in advocacy for health. The number is increasing of doctors using the sources to improve on the health care services and can interact directly with patients taking their feedbacks. Pharmacists, unlike doctors, took to social media very slowly. Some of this community's increase in the technical usage of social media tends to involve social networks unique to pharmacists.
Social media may be of different support to hospitals. It increases the number of patients, meet a wider market, develop new programs, build awareness, enhance results, provide outstanding customer service, and preserve the organization's credibility. Similarly, it can play a significant role in recruiting employees. Because the health sector needs specialized skills, companies have gone from putting ads in traditional media to more targeted such as focused websites (e.g., medical schools), forums, social media outlets, and numerous professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn (dedicated pages, job posts, advertising).
Professional guidelines for using social media- Using electronic media can offer major educational benefits to patients and doctors but can also raise ethical problems. Maintaining trust in the profession and the relationships between patient and physician allows physicians to continually apply ethical standards to protect relationships, confidentiality, privacy, and respect for individuals in electronic settings and communications (Benetoli, Chen & Aslani, 2018). HCPs must also be aware of the privacy policies and conditions of the social networking site agreements they adhere to, to retain strict privacy settings on their accounts. Instead of being "happy" or engaging on social media with a patient, HCPs may suggest that the patient build a Web site specifically designed for medicine posts. Using social media is also detrimental to the qualifications and licensing of an HCP (Stones & Smith, 2018).
State medical boards have the power to control doctors through restriction or suspension or revocation of licenses. Online the boundaries can be blurred between the technological and the social worlds. Doctors will separate themselves from the two realms and behave professionally in both. In an ongoing patient-physician partnership and with patient consent, doctors can use only e-mail or other electronic communications (Pillow et al., 2014). The patient's medical record will contain details of health care correspondence. Internet connectivity and electronic interactions are far-reaching and sometimes lasting. Doctors, trainees, and medical students should be mindful of the possible future consequences of online posts for their professional lives.
Social networking poses potential harm to patients and HCPs in sharing and exchanging low-quality information, damaging professional credibility, violations of patient confidentiality, violations of personal-professional guidelines, and legal or license issues of the HCPs.
Political- Social media use by patients may also be an encouragement to healthcare professionals by offering a platform to enhance better service delivery. Sometimes the social media in healthcare is used to gain political power by the parties of a country. They use social media to start a healthcare program, new vaccines or drugs, or any infrastructural change in the hospital setting. The political parties for their gain publish this information on the social media. This is usually not done with a motive to bring awareness among people but to campaign their parties for the political gain. The health care information which could not be released in public and have the potential in bringing fear in people is restrained by the HCP. A few times this information is brought out in public for political gains.
Legal- A significant danger involved in the use of online networking sites is the exchange of unprofessional details that could be extremely negative on HCPs, scholars, and partner stakeholders. Social media platforms offer information about the identity, values, and aspirations of the user and the initial perception created by this material can be lasting. Opinions can also be based on any of the details found in a social media page, such as photographs, pet names, messages, and comments that a person likes or publishes, and also the following contacts, organisations, charities, sports and media (Kumar & Somani, 2018). Concerns over the use of social media platforms by HCPs often concentrate on the adverse impacts which can be a result of client confidentiality violations. Such violations subject HCPs and health care providers to lawsuits under state laws on privacy (Keller et al., 2014). Health privacy infringements can result in legal action against the HCP, and likely against the employer, when engaging with or referring to patients on social networks. The court can uphold nursing student's dismissal for breaching the code of conduct who make insulting remarks regarding the patients' race, sex, and religion during their care (Singh et al., 2016). The court ruled that the nursing students should sign honor code and confidentiality agreement governed acceptable standards of conduct, rejecting the student's claim that they infringed their right to freedom of expression.
Social issues- A lack of accuracy and reliability is the principal downside of health data and information found on social media platforms and other online websites. Writers of the health data and information used on social media sites are either confidential, or they are identified by a small consciousness. The medical reports can also be missing, unreferenced, or incidental. While evidentiary medicine counter-emphasizes anecdotal tales, social media tends to amplify these tales, relying on common medical information for patient's health stories (Panahi, Watson & Partridge, 2016). There are similar problems with conventional news media; however, these concerns are compounded by the collaborative nature of the online networks, as any individual can add data and information to a website. Often, social media users can be subjected to future disputes they would never be able to identify, both implicitly and directly.
Health support networks- A presence in social media has become a trademark of transparent and vibrant communication. It has fast become the popular mode of contact and the exchange of information. It gives the capability to build an attractive online presence and the program "name" for different organizations, especially residency programs. Among doctors, the most common social media channels should be those where they can engage with different groups, listen to the experts, network, and interact with colleagues about alternative therapies. Pharmacists often use the social media to reflect on communicating with colleagues (Kotsenas et al., 2018). The online networks used in those areas for professional networking are also available only and targeted directly to individuals. In addition to health concerns, discussions on these blogs cover a variety of issues such as biostatistics, ethics, regulation, practice management, career plans, and even medical dating. These can also have enabling conditions for subspecialization.
Clinical education- Social networking tools are now being used to enhance clinical education. Many studies have addressed how to use online tools to improve the understanding of the information, professional competence, and ethics among clinical students. As well, universities use social media to reach students, enhance reach to scholarly libraries, and create virtual lecture halls and office hours, also distinctive teaching strategies (Jackson, 2017). Health care system use social media for several purposes like hospitals, health care networks, medical associations, pharmaceutical firms, advocacy groups for patients, and pharmacy benefits firms. Social networking applications include engaging with the public and patients, increasing community involvement, promoting goods and services, setting up a platform to obtain news about events, initiatives and campaigns, providing a voice for patient education and healthcare, and offering assistance to clients (Chan et al., 2020).
Improving patient outcomes - While HCPs have been hesitant to use social networks for primary care, practitioners and health-care facilities are increasingly embracing this activity. The University of Georgia Health Sciences, for example, has given clients information about a system called WebView that permits patients to contact their physicians and ask queries or requests about prescription updates (Singh et al., 2016). Social networking also can improve patient access to information about health care settings, as well as other access to knowledge. Patients can enter virtual communities via social media, engage in the research, get emotional or financial support, can set their health goals, and track individual progress. Doctors are now using online channels to facilitate health care awareness for patients (Sreelatha & Ramesh, 2016).
Health programs- Social networking has created a large global platform that can rapidly disseminate information and encourage a vast region and communities to further promote health-related goals. Yet social media may serve as a significant forum for global health activism and public education (Charalambous, 2019). For these purposes, certain state departments of public health use Twitter and other social media. The CDC takes an active role on Facebook and Twitter to monitor "tweets" that may signify an outbreak of flu and share information about those events. The CDC also uses social media to identify and track Legionnaire's disease's reality and suspected events.
Social media have helped the health care sector, both the health care providers and the patients in various ways. Social media brings with it legal, political, financial, and technical risks, while having tremendous potential for information and communication exchange. Social networking poses possible harm to the patient and HCPs in sharing and exchanging low-quality information, harming professional reputation, violations of medical privacy, breaches of patient-doctor relationship guidelines standards, and legal or licensing issues. The social networking must be straightforward, deliberate, and maximize the benefits while mitigating the danger. There is no denying the rise of these online platforms as a tool of contact, education, and recruitment. Yet the consequences of violence can be serious, including infringements of medical privacy, infringements of privacy, and recruitment of harassment. The social networking sites used for networking opportunities in those fields are still only available and tailored specifically to individuals. The good use of social media could be an effective resource for public awareness and global health advocacy.
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