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Social Media and Health Care

This article is part of a Special Section on Web 2.0 and Social Media that ran in the Summer issue of PA TIMES. See the end of this article for links to others from the Special Section.

Nidhi Mathur

Social media has increased the ability of the global consumers of public health facilities to share their opinion and express their democratic thoughts online. Social media is inexpensive and accessible to global audience as compared to print media.

People of different ages groups access internet and the social networking websites like Facebook, Orkut, Linkedin, Twitter, issues related to health are posted and discussed as well as awareness is imparted amongst the people regarding diseases like AIDS, cancer. The global audience has been using websites for blogs and videos are also shared on youtube.

Social media provides a platform to public to discuss and express their thoughts about the health care facilities and exchange views about different health care providers and doctors. Free consultation is provided online by the best health care providers. The advantage of social media is its availability. Most people use the internet on laptops or mobile phones so they may, at any time, use social media to get information on health care.

Health care insurance information is also available on social media and one can get the reviews of the same on the social media. People usually prefer to go with word of mouth or they feel satisfied if something has been used by others and their review about the same is good. People tend to go for the references before buying or using a health care product to know the experience of others about the same thing. Blogs are the best to find reviews about any health product. Moreover if you have a query regarding a health care product and you want to discuss with other consumers and not with the health care providers, blogs help you to do so at your ease.

Businesses also rely on social media for research or customer reviews about any health care product. On the basis of review of people through social media, research and survey patterns are finalized and health care providers find out the loopholes and make their best and sincere effort to come up to the customers or patients’ expectations.

People build relationships and get entertained on websites like YouTube and Facebook. Who can be a well wisher other than a friend? If a friend recommends a health care product it is much more reliable and you are tend to consume the same confidently. Social media is a good source of advertising for the small and large businesses dealing in health care. Even government agencies are using blogs and social media tactics to reach out to the people at large.

The most common health problem is obesity. It leads to stress and many other diseases, frustration and depression. Through social media you can set up a goal to lose weight. For example, you may Tweet or set your mission on Facebook. You may even start a blog conversation, mentioning what is your weight currently, you are currently concentrating on reducing your weight to some particular pounds and what is your plan to go about it. In the same way your other friends will start posting replies on your status or blog. This will keep you motivated. You may refer to various exercise and dieting videos posted on YouTube.

Meanwhile keep updating your friends about your progress. As you accomplish your mission, Tweet your friends or post a picture on Facebook, you will be complimented and others will also get motivated from your effort. You may later on share your experience with your friends either through emails or you may record a motivational video of yourself and post it on YouTube.

This was the smallest example. People are using social media for treatment and problems related to heart, lungs, liver, pregnancy and others.

The government has taken a step forward to use and support social media for providing better health care facilities and bringing awareness amongst the people about certain diseases. Government provides financial support to the public health care facility providers to install, implement and upgrade their health care information technology. This includes sharing of electronic medical records, telemedicine and other clinical care system with the public.

People form groups and hold meetings through the help of Facebook and other social networking websites. They hold meetings and make sure they provide services at the polio booth by bringing the children to the polio booth and getting them helped with the treatment. People basically join hands together and support the government initiative for the better health care of the citizens of our country. Many people make their financial contribution and this money is raised as charity which benefits the under privileged.

Many of the renowned surgeons, physicians, cardiologist, radiologists, gynecologists and medical experts have started their blog and they provide free consultation to the patients. They along with the social media as platform help government with their imitative to reach people and ensure better public health. In this case time, efforts and money of the patient is saved.

The patients as well as doctors are relieved of the pain of struggling for their way through the clinic or the hospital. They may sit in a cozy corner of room, through internet and social media they may discuss and exchange information about the health problem and patient is asked to visit the doctor only when required.

Even when the doctor and patient are located at distant corners of the world they may interact, stay connected and discuss the progress on the treatment by exchanging reports. A doctor or a patient may share their experience and success on the blogs. A patient may recommend a doctor or a doctor may recommend a pill using social networking websites, tweets or blogs.

In short, social media has turned out to be a boon in this era. It is simple to use, easily accessible and connects the world through mobile and internet. Even when there is no electricity you may use the internet on your mobile and use the social media. It provides a platform for the people of democratic nations where they can exchange and express their thoughts and emotions about government and private sector and about any facility or any product whether it is related to education, health or other public facilities or other private business. It not only benefits people, government but benefit businesses as well.

A product or service may be encouraged or discouraged on the social media depending upon the reviews of people. Businesses and agencies through these reviews set up their research and development team on task to improve the product or services. Social media provides the most genuine and reliable report on the consumer’s expectation and experience regarding a health care product or a service as the consumers share their own experience and queries. There are no middlemen involved social media provides a platform to the patients or consumers to reach the doctors or health care company to share their true experience. Complaints and gratitude on one side and discussion and knowledge sharing on other side makes the social media a coin flipped by patient/consumers or doctor/ health care companies for better health care.

Nidhi Mathur is an assistant professor at the Institute of Management Technology, Center for Distance Learning, Ghaziabad, India. Email: [email protected]

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