What Does the Future of Social Media in Healthcare Look Like?

“The power and benefit of social media channels is that they allow broad sharing of information, at little to no cost. Naturally, this benefit is also a curse, since unqualified people spouting medical advice or pseudoscience and marketers pushing products and services can present themselves as experts on the Internet. Unfortunately, with many adults researching medical conditions online and attempting to self-diagnose, this widespread misinformation can be dangerous. One important role for physicians in social media is to combat this misinformation.” ~ American Academy of Family Physicians

In March 2013, I started blogging and engaging on social media. At that time, the landscape of physicians on social media seemed uncertain and unclear. Guidelines from medical authorities were vague, maybe understandably so. Since that time, the conversation isn’t as much about if physicians should be on social media but rather how they should start if they haven’t already.

Short note on professionalism

When it comes to any conversation about physicians/healthcare and social media, I can’t help but to start interjecting professionalism. From every standpoint, this ends up being the basis of engagement and utilization when it comes to leveraging these social platforms online.

This past week, I saw a headline, as I am sure many of you did, that the president of the United States’ tweets are considered ‘official statements’ from the president. As much as I believe in the power of Twitter, even I am surprised by the influence of this social media platform. This example also demonstrates that your tweets represent you both personally and professionally and how far reaching the impact can be.

The bottom line as stated by the Canadian Medical Protective Association – “When using professional social networks, like all social media, keep in mind that you are governed by the same legal and professional standards that would apply in any other professional setting.”

The future is bright

The present climate of social media use in healthcare is a good indication of what the future holds. This is an area that only continues to gain momentum and the positives continue to outweigh the negatives. It is hard to deny the ability of a platform, such as Twitter, to allow physicians to share information, engage with the public and other healthcare professionals, promote health care policies and behaviours, and overall remain aware of new research and opportunities. And this is just scratching the surface – “Social media allows for expression, but also education and interaction, with groups of people that were previously impossible to reach.1

One of the emerging uses is as a way for physicians to interact with their patients. According to this comprehensive, great article Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices by Lee Ventola – “Approximately 60% of physicians were found to favor interacting with patients through social media for the purpose of providing patient education and health monitoring, and for encouraging behavioral changes and drug adherence, with the hope that these efforts will lead to “better education, increased compliance, and better outcomes.”

I personally think that social media utilization in healthcare will continue to flourish where ‘corridor consults’ with experts anywhere in the world will enhance patient care and evidenced-based medical information will be at our fingertips. We have just touched on this topic that will inevitably continue to grow – the future is bright.



1. Gould, D.J. (2016) Emerging Trends in Social Media and Plastic Surgery. Annals of Translational Medicine. 2016; 4(23):455.


33 Charts – Dr. Bryan Vartabedian

Healthcare Leadership Blog

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