The Twitter Treatment: Thoughts from a Patient on Social Media
If you’re like me, you’re spending more and more time staying connected with friends and family online through Twitter, Facebook, and the like. In many instances, these sites are quicker and easier than the usual lengthy phone conversation and mean that I’m going to be more up to date on what my best friend from college, mother, and colleagues are up to.
Doctors and other health care professionals have been wary of these sites, however, because of the obvious concerns of privacy and patient welfare. These doctors are missing ample opportunities to improve their patients’ health, because they haven’t put enough creative energy into coming up with non-compromising ways to use these sites. Here are a few ideas for any social media-savvy doctors out there who are looking for safe ways they can reach their patients with Web 2.0.
Tell Me What to Eat!
How many times have I opened the fridge and wondered, what the hell am I going to make for lunch? I’m a fairly non-picky eater, but my daughter has gluten intolerance. Making healthy, diverse meals for the both of us can sometimes be a challenge. One easy way our nutritionist could stay in touch would be to tweet meal suggestions during different times of the day, to help us keep up with our dietary challenges.
Keep Patients Updated on Good Reads
Doctors must stay abreast of the scholarly and not so scholarly medical literature that’s out there; it’s part of their job. Me, on the other hand, I have my own job, and it unfortunately doesn’t involve reading things that might help me improve my health. Tweeting important articles and studies would be a great, simple way to disseminate helpful information to patients.
Check in via Facebook
There are certainly some things that wouldn’t be appropriate for a doctor to do via a Facebook message or wall post, such as diagnosing an illness or telling a patient that the results of their test have come back positive. But, there are some instances in which a quick message from a doctor could help a great deal without compromising patient well-being. For example, doctors could use a Facebook message to remind a patient about an upcoming appointment, or to ask how their new exercise regimen is going.
Support Parents of Sick Children
There’s nothing scarier than having a sick son or daughter; most parents are overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness and anxiety. Plus, you have to act as your kid’s advocate while dealing with these troubling emotions on your own. While it’s not always possible for doctors to see patients for emotional and mental checkups between regular visits, it would be possible, with a Facebook message, to get a quick update on how the parents and the child are handling the illness and to suggest ways to relieve the burden they are bearing.
Tweeting Mental Health Tips
It’s tough to deal with sensitive issues over the Internet, as many privacy concerns arise, as well as the feeling that such modes of communication aren’t adequate for expressing certain problems. For patients dealing with depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, however, the feeling of being alone or abandoned can come on strong. Tweets with simple mental health reminders could be a safe way to reconnect with such patients and to remind them of things that can help alleviate their problem. For example, tweets could remind patients of techniques like positive self-talk, meditation, and exercise.
Disclaimer: this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.