Social media technologies and their popularity have exploded in the past decade, and it’s not just patients who are getting in on the action. Physicians and health care organizations alike are increasingly utilizing text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media technologies in an effort to explore their potential benefits.
It’s a wise strategic move, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 2012 Health Research Institute report that found health care organizations that “ignore the virtual environment could find themselves losing customers to competitors that do use social media to listen to and engage with consumers.”
Thus far, most of the research in this area has focused on social media technologies as marketing tools, a way to listen to what patients are saying about their experiences and engaging them.
“[In the PwC research paper], we gave examples of how hospitals are using social media, and they are not limiting their imaginations to just marketing and listening to people’s feedback about the company; they are starting to think about how to use social media for services and other aspects of their business,” says John Edwards, a PwC spokesperson and director in the Healthcare Strategy & Healthcare Business Intelligence Practice.
Edwards cites a 2012 research statistic from the Hospital Social Network List that shows more than 1,200 US hospitals now are using social media sites, a 30% increase from the previous year. “That is a pretty significant trend toward adopting social media, so it would suggest that hospitals are finding uses for social media as part of their strategies, and that it’s a growing trend,” he says.
But what about taking social media one step further and using it as a health record tool? What benefits could be seen from including social media exchanges in the patient record, and would such benefits override the obvious—and not-so-obvious—obstacles that arise?
A Place in the EHR?
Social media and health care experts seem to agree that social media exchanges could add important and interesting information to the care process, but where exactly this information fits in—and how to go about incorporating it—is up for debate.