Facebook, the popular social media portal has more than 1.3 billion users. Twitter, the microblogging website has a count of 900 million, every second, about an hour of video is uploaded to YouTube. Social networking has brought a paradigm shift in the ways we connect to our peers.
Healthcare can utilize this immensely diverse platform to reach new heights. However, the health sector has just started doing so. The prime reason for this is the numerous regulations that a health care provider has to follow. But rest assured, there are some truly great minds putting this medium to good use for the benefit of everyone involved in healthcare.
Here are 9 examples of healthcare utilizing social networks:
1. The doors of Operating Rooms are now open to the world
With the popularity of live streaming, hospitals broadcast surgical procedures through social media. Recently, The Swedish Medical Centre in Washington State streamed a live broadcast of a cochlear implant surgery followed by a video of the patient listening to music for the first time. Memorial Hermann Hospital in Texas streamed a delivery of a 6 pound baby via cesarean section live from the Operating Room on Twitter. The doctors behind the World Vasectomy Day broadcasted 25 vasectomy procedures live along with interviews and short documentaries to reduce the fear of the procedure. There are countless other examples where social media has been utilized in a similar manner.
2. Outsourcing Tough Medical Diagnoses.
The average user of CrowdMed, a website, has been sick for about 8 years, spent more than $50,000 on medical expenses and still has no diagnosis for their illness. The website helps patients reach a network of healthcare professionals and medical students in over 20 countries.
One patient found a diagnosis and cure in just two weeks of signing up. The patient presented with a painful swelling condition that had kept her bedridden for almost 20 years. The possibilities are endless. And it is also not burdensome to physicians. An average medical professional of CrowdMed, spends about 11 hours a month solving medical cases on the network.
3. Raising Money for Clinical Research
When a 4 year old girl was diagnosed with a rare pediatric disease, her parents turned to social media. They have now raised more than $2 million from 30,000 donors for the research of the cure for this rare disease.
Another example is the ALS Bucket Challenge that was recently all over the social media and raised $115 million in a few months, which goes to prove how potent and useful the social media platform can be for raising funds and spreading awareness.
4. Using #FOMO for Public Health
A study found that social media conversations could perhaps triple the request rate for at-home HIV tests in high risk zones. The researchers are now going one step further by focusing on expanding the findings of the study to combat depression, bullying and substance abuse.
The reason social media has a huge potential is not because of the platform itself, but because almost everybody uses it.
5. Using Social Media Data for Life-Saving Trends
The amount of data in social media websites is perhaps a gold mine for medical researchers. For example, a research found that angry tweets could directly predict fatal cardiac diseases. The study found that the model based on Twitter language could predict heart disease significantly better than a model combined with 10 common heart disease risk factors that included smoking, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
Real-time map tracking for international awareness of Ebola was done through tweets. Even though the potential for social media in medical research is immense, there are emerging debates about the ethics and accuracy of using the data.
6. Directly Contacting Candidates for Clinical Trials
It is estimated that 30% of work done in a clinical trial is on patient recruiting. Also, difficulty finding patients is the top reason for delays in clinical research. However, this is about to change. One study found that 84% of patients for two recent pediatric rare disease trials were referred to via social media. There is a patient social network – PatientsLikeMe. This social network has a tool that automatically matches members to over 40,000 clinical trial opportunities. Such methods of patient recruiting are not only quick but quite cost effective.
7. Getting the Doctors to Social Media
When the social media was in its initial phase, the strict privacy restrictions made it difficult for medical professionals. But this is rapidly changing. Professional networks like Sermo and Figure 1 have created a physician-only social space. Such networks are quickly gaining popularity.
8. Donating Organs
Facebook included a single organ donation question to their timeline, over 50,000 people said that they were willing to be donors. Over 10,000 people officially registered in their state registry in just one day. This is more than 21 times the normal registration rate.
9. Disease Awareness
In Netherlands, health advocates photoshopped people into pictures of events that they had never attended. Then they tagged them on Facebook. A follow-up message said, “Confused? You are now experiencing what it is like to have Alzheimer’s disease.”
The above mentioned examples are all quite recent, which points to the fact that this combination of social media and medicine is still in its early phase. Despite concerns about privacy and other such factors, fresh new ways are being found to make the most of social networks.