Social media, online access creating a 'perfect storm' in healthcare

The simultaneous maturation of patient-centered healthcare, social media and the Internet has created what researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School are calling a "perfect storm" in healthcare with regard to how patients and organizations connect.

Growing evidence of the effectiveness of patient-centered healthcare is causing many healthcare organizations to shift their strategies for care delivery, say the researchers in a recently published editorial in BMJ Quality & Safety. At the same time, federal agencies, like the Office of the National Coordinator are going all in on bets that patient engagement and digital tools represent the future of healthcare.

What's more, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become "significant sources" of specific and individual healthcare information, according to the authors.

"Already, social networking has proved to be a major benefit for patients, especially those with rare conditions, to share information among themselves," they say. "However, just as today it is possible to select restaurants more effectively with Yelp, it is likely that patients will be making decisions about where to get their healthcare through such approaches--though the stakes are considerably higher in healthcare choices."

Patients with online access to their medical records and email communication with clinicians were found to have more interaction with those clinicians--including office visits and phone calls--according to a study published in November in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In November, the National eHealth Collaborative, a Washington, D.C.-based public-private partnership geared toward enabling nationwide health information exchange, released a model framework provider organizations can use to help spur patient engagement efforts. The model--dubbed the Patient Engagement Framework--is divided into five phases, each of which incorporates advice from organizations that have successfully launched and sustained patient engagement efforts.

To learn more:
- read the editorial