It's no secret that social media has expanded beyond close friends, loose friends, and even potential friends. Many businesses and organizations have jumped on the social media bandwagon using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and now the newest Pinterest to increase awareness and introduce new ideas.
But relatively new to the social media scene is a growing list of physicians, medical experts, and health organizations.
When a recent survey revealed a surprisingly frequent use of social media sites as a source for health information, doctors across the country began asking themselves if they ought to join the online conversations.
According to Professional Risk blog, the survey showed that 16% of the 22,000 Americans surveyed turn to a social media site for health information. Facebook was the most commonly used site for such research, boasting 94% of the share among social media sites.
So why are people looking for diagnoses online instead of at the doctor's office? Experts suspect that because people already spend a great deal of time online, this is just another topic of discussion to add to the mix.
It seems that people would rather have an online conversation about their question rather than read a scholarly article from a medical website.
Jennifer Dyer, a pediatric endocrinologist, says “For many people, social media — or Facebook in particular — is the Internet.”
Professional Risk also reports that on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being completely trustworthy information, about 82% of those surveyed rated social media sites at a 3.
This presents an interesting situation for health professionals who want to be involved with their patients, but who are also discouraged by the American Medical Association from interacting with patients on social media sites.
Of course many doctors do have professional websites, and it is those websites which have given inspiration for acceptable social media interaction.
A well-maintained Facebook page seems to be a great avenue to post frequent health news, updates, and FAQs, and also allow patients to pose specific questions to an expert instead of throwing them out to their friends.
Several professional health organizations have shown quite a following on Facebook, the American Cancer Society on top with 228,000 likes.
While you may find your physician on Facebook, don't expect to avoid his or her office entirely. An official diagnosis will likely still require a good old fashioned doctor's visit.
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The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.