Social media is a powerful tool for communication, where users can create, share, and interact with digital content. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have been widely used for health-related purposes, however, the COVID-19 global pandemic has increased our reliance on social media by enabling the public to stay informed on public health measures and guidelines. This increased dependency on social media has led to an increase in online presence by health care providers (HCPs), and it has promoted medical literacy by making accurate and reliable health information accessible.
There has been a significant increase in the utilization of social media by HCPs during the COVID-19 pandemic. By having an online presence, HCPs and public health organizations used social media as an educational tool to promote medical literacy and to encourage public health measures. One study found that social media users who followed credible scientific sources such as HCPs during the pandemic had higher medical literacy and were more likely to receive vaccinations. By increasing HCPs social following, individuals are able to effectively act on reliable information to make appropriate healthcare decisions.
When HCPs provide information on social media, this becomes a space where patients who may not have access to an HCP can have their medical questions answered online. This is especially important during the pandemic, where misinformation is rampant and vaccine hesitancy is on the rise. Being able to easily ask questions and receive trustworthy advice from an HCP reduces the burden placed on the general public to differentiate facts from myths. This can help combat some of the misinformation online and reduce vaccine hesitancy, and it is especially beneficial to those who cannot consult an HCP easily because of geographical constraints or other limitations.
However, at present there are still many issues that need to be addressed when it comes to the role of social media in healthcare. Wrong or inaccurate medical information frequently gets spread around and exponentially shared because many members of the public lack the medical literacy to distinguish facts from myths. Thus, for social media to take on a more serious role in health-related settings, these problems would have to be addressed first.
Social media platforms are a quick and convenient tool for people to obtain, share, and stay up to date with information and events, both locally and globally. It is no surprise that its uses extend to the health community. Prompted by the global pandemic, more HCPs and official health authorities are posting important health resources and information through social media to promote medical literacy within the public. Of course, there are still many issues surrounding the use of social media in healthcare, however, it is evident that social media plays at least an ancillary role in people’s healthcare.
- How to Use Social Media in Healthcare: A Guide for Health Professionals (hootsuite.com)
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