Social media can be a minefield, but platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter can also provide physicians and other healthcare professionals with an array of previously unheard-of advantages and the ability to confer with other professionals--no matter where they are in the world, according to an article at HealthCareDive.
Stacey Loeb, M.D., an assistant professor of urology at New York University, told the publication she caught the social media bug when she was giving a lecture at a conference in Australia and an audience member relayed a question to her from a Twitter user in Canada.
"I thought, my gosh, people are remotely participating in medical conferences around the world," she said.
Loeb said that many healthcare professionals avoid social media because they worry about running afoul of patient confidentiality rules and that they will end up wasting time. She makes efficient use of social media by checking Twitter while she is on the subway or when she's waiting in line.
Health providers must rush to take advantage of social media opportunities now or get left behind, according to Business Insider. "Choosing not to engage the healthcare consumer where they regularly interact electronically is a tacit surrender to more forward thinking stakeholders," wrote David Francis of RBC Capital Markets.
Use of social media platforms gives providers a whole new way to provide the public with medical education, Loeb said. It allows them to advocate for techniques and new ideas in a public forum and can even help providers market their services to the public in targeted, specific ways.
Providers, she said, must follow their organization's social media policies, never offer what could be construed as medical advice and always maintain their professionalism. "The potential utility continues to expand in ways we may not have even imagined two or three years ago," she said. "I think the sky is the limit."