SOCIAL MEDIA IN HEALTH CARE: ITS ROLE IN BOOSTING MORALE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Social media has become a vital part of life, affecting and affecting various aspects of human existence. With social media such as Face book and Twitter registering tens of millions of daily users and more registering daily, social media cannot be ignored. Social media has unique advantages that have become vital for use in healthcare. The health care industry can no longer ignore the advancement of technology. The relationship between the strengths of social media and emerging health care issues often results in significant improvements in the performance indicators of the industry such as cost, quality of service provision, and speed in delivery of healthcare services.
Social media offers a channel through which healthcare consumers can access information and communication about wellness and achievements in the medical field. In the past, advancements in medical technology took time to reach consumers who may need such information. The potential of growth in social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and My space, provides users with the ability to find information and services easily online by ensuring that members are not only connected but can also join interest groups. According to (Qualman 2009) it is not clear what exactly has generated interest in social media, and the exact measurable benefits that can arise in healthcare from the use of social media. However, even though understanding and researching social media might be difficult, healthcare stakeholders cannot ignore it altogether. Social media can play a vital role in improving the industry as a whole, control chronic diseases, and ensure high-quality geriatric care. The use of social media in healthcare is similar to systems that are employed for the improvement of business service provision.
- The use of social media in healthcare leads to improvement of the working conditions in the health care sector
- The use of social media in healthcare allows for easy provision of services to patients which in turn boosts morale
- Can Social media such as Facebook and Twitter be used to improve the working conditions of the personnel?
- Does social media improve the provision of services and boost morale?
SOCIAL MEDIA IN HEALTHCARE
The role that social media plays in healthcare cannot be denied. The importance of social media in improving the industry itself and the services provided to consumers. Stakeholders agree that social media has provided a unique avenue for improvement.
The future of health care lies in preventive care which involves a lot of energy and time often demoralizing the workers. (Dejong 2013) states that governments and other stakeholders in the health care industry are focused on ensuring that prevention comes before cure. Matters such as vaccinations are vital in prevention. Insurance companies have taken the prevention care seriously, continuously encouraging and requiring their members to lead healthy lifestyles. This includes disseminating information on nutrition, exercise, and general lifestyle choices. The internet has made it easier to send information. Social media can be accessed through various channels. One does not necessarily have to own a computer or even a laptop, mobile phones, and tablets among other devices are enabled to provide social media services. Customers often attempt to or access information through the various apps on their devices. With such easy dissemination of information, it’s easy for doctors and other medical stakeholders to ensure preventive care is a success.
(Taylor and Field 2007) customers are often encouraged to update their own profiles, in addition to information about their general life. Doctors can access such information and create a database that is quite useful in ensuring that potential ailments are prevented. With today’s technology it is possible and in fact, has become a trend for doctors to monitor their own patients remotely. Whereas traditional, patients would be required to attend clinics where they are checked for potential ailments and diseases. Various apps often broadcast reminders for the patients for potential ailments, care, and management at home, and physical examination requirements. (Franklin 1999) in his study found that there was a direct increase in patients visiting doctors for physical checkups and examinations for those doctors who made use of social media. Patients who get reminders and messages from their doctors for potential checkups and issues that they need to take care of about their health are most likely to remember their appointments. Further, (Sturm 2010) also found that doctors who make use of social media also had an increase in patients who kept track of their vaccinations and well-being appointments. For mothers on social media, constant reminders of vaccinations and baby care ensured that postnatal care is not forgotten.
(Mason et al 2012) analyzed social media from the perspective of patients and found that the majority of the diseases are easily identified and treated in the early stages. Often before visiting the doctor’s office, patients seek information about the symptoms they are experiencing. Sometimes they share such symptoms on social media, wherewith the help of professionals and other patients they receive help on the diagnosis. Further, doctors and medical personnel are also able to share information on various diseases which are hard to diagnose. (Murero and Rice 2006) analyzed diabetes patients in his study. He found that majority of the individuals who were diagnosed early read information and gathered data from social media. Through social media updates by medical doctors and stakeholders in the medical field, they began suspecting and eventually went for tests on diabetes where they were diagnosed early. The result is that they in turn were able to manage their disease better. Early diagnosis increases the chance of excellent management, reduces the suffering of the patient, and in turn makes the chances of survival higher. According to (Gordon 2005) currently, the internet is awash with information on the diagnosis of various rare cancer diseases. Such diseases have claimed several lives because they are diagnosed late. In an attempt to change the current, doctors are turning to social media to disseminate vital information on diagnosis techniques, symptoms, and even probabilities of infection. (Brent 2003) suggests that one of the most successful campaigns upon which other campaigns are modeled after is the breast cancer campaign. 60% of women on social media often receive updates on breast cancer screening and diagnosis. Further, social media has successfully carried out several campaigns about fighting breast cancer. (Crompton 1990) concludes that many more women have access to all the information they need and require for self-diagnosis. They can join together in groups to fight off the scourge that has become breast cancer. Using different apps, each day women can diagnose, seek treatment, and learn more about breast cancer without having to leave the comfort of their workplace or even home.
Healthcare budgets take up a large portion of the national budget. Concerns for quality service provision and an increase in the need for medical services have driven national budgets for health care higher and higher. The management of chronic diseases takes up at least 75% f the national healthcare budget in America. Also, the majority of the deaths accounted for in the past decade can be attributed to chronic diseases, (Peabody et al 2013). It is therefore not surprising that concern for chronic disease management and treatment has taken the world by storm. More and more people are getting infected each year with chronic diseases. Patients with chronic diseases are severely limited in terms of engagement and participation in production activities. As shown by (Rushmer 2002) chronic illnesses require much more than regular clinical interventions. management of the diseases goes beyond the clinic and is actually more focused on long term care and constant communication between the patient and caretakers specialized in that particular ailment. (Peabody et al 2013) suggests that these diseases often require serious lifestyle modifications, without which management of the same would be impossible. Patients find it difficult to keep track of the lifestyle changes they are expected to make. In some cases even beginning the change is a difficult process. Social media provides a platform where groups of patients can begin making modifications together and share secrets on how to make the journey easier. For example, through the groups, the patients can be able to make proper plans for the changes they need to make, share diet ideas, and even exercise plans.
Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by people with chronic diseases is the effects that arise from treatment. For example, cancer patients have severe reactions to chemotherapy and other treatment options they have to undergo. Sometimes the medication itself is the problem, causing severe reactions. Whereas such patients may receive support from family and friends, sometimes all they require is simple contact with others going through the same experience. Tracing a support group physically requires time; attending the meetings requires energy which patients rarely have (Rushmer 2002). Social media has provided a direct solution where patients can meet and interact, sharing experiences, and encouraging each other. Through social media, patients who are miles apart even in different countries have an easy time finding encouragement, sharing experiences, and getting support from others who may be going through the same issues.
Social media not only allows patients to keep in touch but also gives a chance for professionals to keep in touch with groups of patients. Through social media, information can be shared about new improvements and the advancement of technology associated with chronic illnesses. (Murero and Rice 2006) highlights that in the past, disseminating information and research that is vital for patients took time and often reached the patients when it was too late. Today, it is a matter of minutes and seconds before patients become aware of the treatments available and the advancements that could assist them. (Dejong 2013) focuses on the first social media network for women suffering from breast cancer. Through this network, several research findings have been disseminated. It is not only this; in fact, researchers find it easier to gather information and vital data through social media. Whereas gaining access to patients for research could be difficult, through social media thousands of patients are made available at the click of a button. This benefits research in that advancements and innovations can be completed much faster for the benefit of those suffering from chronic diseases.
My breast cancer team continues to be one of the best examples of a social media network dealing with a chronic disease. According to (Rushmer 2002) the network and site continue to be the most active in the social media platform. The site has been credited for the early diagnosis being experienced in terms of breast cancer. In 2012, the site was accessed by more than 200,000 women in the United States alone. Worldwide access reached the millions with more and more women joining the network daily. The social network helps women to connect with others who are suffering or have suffered from breast cancer. Through the network, the patients learn how to manage the disease and to minimize the challenges that they will encounter when undergoing treatment. Early patients are made aware of what to expect in terms of treatment. Patients not only discuss management of the disease, but they also go further to provide encouragement and share experiences such as financial issues that arise from costly treatment. Through such discussions, the patients are made aware of other treatment centers where they can receive care at manageable costs; they are also made aware of financial services and insurance companies that could make the financial burden much easier.
(Sturm 2010) indicates that the introduction of social media to chronic diseases has given a voice to chronic patients. In the past, such a voice has been limited to support groups that meet weekly or even monthly. However, with social media patients get a place to articulate their emotions whether they are at home, or even in the office. Social media gives them a chance to share not just the challenges they are encountering but also the small victories. Such victories may not be well understood by other individuals, however willing they are to provide support to the patient. Other patients, on the other hand, can provide the right support and often understand the small victories much better than family and friends. (Reisman 2007) found that patients who joined and had access to social media proved to be stronger emotionally even when faced with a multitude of challenges. For some, the treatment itself was not working; however, because of the support they had from their social media groups they were much stronger. On the other hand, patients without social media access tended to be slightly weaker when it comes to emotional wellbeing and sometimes also the physical desire to fight the disease.
(Lanz et al 1990) in the final analysis, medical parishioners have credited social media for successful campaigns in chronic diseases. Diseases such as diabetes and various forms of cancer are now easily identified and often diagnosed early following easy and excellent dissemination of information through social media. According to (Hill et al 2014) every single hour people are talking about, communicating, and discussing various aspects of a particular disease. Social media has brought them together from across borders. Places, where information would be hard to get, have been brought into the loop through social media. For patients and medical stakeholders as well, the management of chronic diseases has definitely been made much easier.
There has been a rising concern about high overhead costs. Often, hospitals are running on deficits. They are unable to meet their own obligations, nurses often have delayed salaries, doctors’ costs are rarely paid on time, and sometimes especially in public hospitals patients can only find substandard services. Boards employed and directors put in place in healthcare centers have only goal exemplary and common goal and that is to reduce the cost of services. One of the ways to accomplish this goal is through social media. (Phillips et al 1994) looks into the issue and concludes that communication through social media and maintenance of active follow up in these channels can cut the cost and budget of healthcare by at least 23%. Patients do not need to spend a lot of time in queues waiting to be attended to. In small matters, they can consult with the doctors only. (Glanz et al 1990) further highlights that doctors can treat many patients at once. This means that with one doctor attending many patients, the wage bill could easily be reduced. Furthermore, the chances of burnout are reduced greatly. Hospitals are often forced to spend much in managing their own medical personnel health. Spending any hours and days without time off from work treating patients and ensuring excellent care is given to them can be detrimental to the health of the personnel.
According to (Powers and Faden 2006) there is one cost that is often rarely considered but which increases the budget of the hospital. Telephone calls made when following up with the patients, coordinating with other healthcare personnel in charge of the treatment of the patient sometimes consists of at least 10% of the hospital budget. This coupled with paper for filing; personnel to manage such paperwork can increase the budget of the hospital extremely. Social media allows for the storage of information, follow up, and easy communication between patients and their team of medical personnel. The result is cost reduction. (Ruger 2010) notes that whereas the majority of the policies introduced in hospitals rarely last the duration or even have a great impact on the reduction of the budgets; social media maintains itself and ensures high chances of success. Once a healthcare unit has begun using social media, for follow-up and provision of services they see not just a reduction of costs but also increasing inefficiency. Teams of doctors even in different health care units can keep in touch. Follow-up mechanisms are generated allowing personnel to ensure patients keep appointments. Simple queries are handled quickly thereby ensuring that they do not escalate into bigger issues that would be much more difficult and in some cases detrimental.
In 2010, Vista an online healthcare provider introduced various apps that allowed patients and doctors to interact easily through social media. The apps could easily work on various gadgets including mobile phones. The Health performance management organization took time monitoring the products associated with this online healthcare service provider. The company concluded that the online social media had allowed Vista to cut its costs by 30%, (Saltman and Otter 1995). It is to be noted that Vista provides healthcare to military personnel. The cost of treating and maintaining the health of individuals in the military is often much higher than in any other career. The personnel caring for the individual often have low morale. The hospitals are understaffed; the military personnel are in so much pain or having serious problems adjusting to society. With the online healthcare provider, it has been noted that staff is not only highly motivated; the company has also been experiencing a low turnover. According to (Brent 2003) medical personnel has the highest turnover rates. Majority of the personnel working in military hospitals leave within a year of being employed. The rest is completely burnt out and have no desire to improve their own services. However, with social media, they can interact with their patients outside the hospital environment. Also, they can become part of the successful treatment that comes from extended care. They, therefore, become more motivated, more willing to participate in the healing process, and more willing to give an extra effort towards the same.
Perhaps the biggest advantage that comes from social media in health care is the ability to collaborate with other doctors and medical personnel. Often one patient is handled by various teams of doctors. Bureaucracy and poor interaction in the team can lead to frustration. (Ruger 2010) found that at least 17% of medical personnel felt that communication within a team was not only vital but necessary. However, he found that majority of the teams involved in the medical care of a patient had poor communication within themselves. The result was that there were constant arguments, conflicts, and delays in the provision of service. Patients of course suffer the most when there is a breakdown of communication. However, the frustration of medical personnel cannot be ignored. Often, they have a hard time completing the tastes assigned to them. The result is that they become frustrated and demoralized especially when the care of the patient is delayed and put in jeopardy. Social media has completely improved communication between teams. (Glanz et al 1990) suggest that the ability to communicate with each other across states, borders, and even using various gadgets makes work twice as easy for the workers. It does not matter where each individual is, they can update the information, confirm the options, and get in touch with fellow medical personnel easily. Since communication becomes easy, individuals can complete their tasks on time and easily. The result is that they become highly motivated because they can record and keep track of their own accomplishments.
Furthermore, there are times that medical personnel require assistance in understanding a certain phenomenon. Traditionally, communication between medical personnel has often been limited. Each individual is skilled with special knowledge and talent that could be vital in the care of the patient. Lack of proper knowledge and skills can be detrimental to the confidence of the individual personnel. It is important to note that such confidence is vital in ensuring that the individual enjoys the work. Without confidence, they can easily lose morale. (Saltman and Otter 1995) in his research on human resources, personnel found that workers who have no confidence in their own skills, who cannot communicate or interact with fellow workers often suffer from low self-esteem which in turn affects the quality of work they can produce. Social media allows medical personnel to keep in touch with others. This way they can enrich each other in terms of knowledge and skills. Such enrichment allows individuals to become better skilled and confident in their work.
(Ruger 2010) has shown that physician to physician interaction is important towards ensuring efficiency in health care. The medical field is continually becoming wider, introducing new technology and treatments on what seems like a daily basis. Physicians are often too busy to seek out new knowledge and can become frustrated with the nature of ailments that they do not understand. With social media, communication is instant and through any device. With the physicians keeping in touch new technology and innovations are easily communicated. In the end, the physician is up to date, can provide excellent care to his own patients without even having to leave his own workplace. With the busy schedule and lack of time that physicians are often faced with, this social media becomes a vital and necessary addition to the healthcare industry. The medical personnel can share ideas, experiences, and therefore be able to encourage each other through the unique challenges that they are encountering.
The current economy is such that individuals looking for challenging and exciting new work opportunities often find it difficult to find the same. There are fewer and fewer chances even in the large healthcare industry to find new employment. This often leads to high frustration and in many cases a change in career paths. The lack of employment is an issue that has been debated by governments and employment institutions for decades. There is a need for the creation of new employment opportunities. In the case of health service workers, finding employment can be quite difficult. They have no time to search for employment and are often too scared to leave the security of their current employment in search of a new job. (Cohen 2013) suggests that the fact that they lack alternatives and feel cornered in their current place of employment is likely to cause dissatisfaction and poor morale among the staff. Social media beings a new avenue that is where hospitals can record their talent search, vacancies and employment opportunities can be shared. In fact, as shown by (Anderson et al 1994) it is possible to get employment opportunities, opportunities for interviews without even presenting and making the application. Some social media sites not only bring professionals together, but they also allow for the registration of resumes and interests for a career. Companies and health facilities looking for skilled professionals can look here, identify the person most suitable, and make an offer.
With employees no longer feeling boxed in, they can identify interesting, suitable, and challenging opportunities towards furthering their careers. (Mesko 2013) found that the health care industry players are often not concerned with career development. This is even though career development is one of the most vital elements in ensuring motivation. With social media increasing the chance of development in career, workers are more motivated they have greater morale to work, and are therefore highly productive.
With more and more people turning towards social media for various issues, it has now become a vital tool in healthcare. Social media has of course improved the provision of services to the patients. Where traditionally patients had to rely on face to face interaction, today online care is becoming the ideal form of treatment. Much focus has been put on the patient but it is vital to note that workers also enjoy the benefits of social media. Doctors and physicians can keep in touch with their own patients easily. Also, they can provide efficient services without involving too much energy.
The healthcare industry often has been noted as having the highest rate of burnout among workers. It is often found that such workers are working only because they have to. Because they lack motivation, mistakes are often made. News and media worldwide are often recording mistakes that have been detrimental to the health of an individual, sometimes even leading to death. Surprisingly in the majority of these cases, someone could have done something. However, because of poor motivation and a lack of morale the situation was allowed to escalate beyond what could be handled.
Social media is a channel that could easily be used to repair the industry. Workers are allowed to keep in touch with others, often foaming support groups which allow them to work through various challenges at work. Because they are in touch, and often have avenues to vent out their frustrations they become more inspired and willing to dedicate and sacrifice for their patients. Through social media, the personnel can maintain high morale by maintaining contact even across nations. With good advice and hearty discussions taking place on this platform, they are less likely to become bored and frustrated with their own work.
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