From the latest fad diets to new technologies, to the current push for the revamping of our healthcare system, trends in healthcare can be found in every doctor’s office, hospital, and clinic across the country. The word “trend” can have a negative connotation. For some, a trend is seen as the cringeworthy comeback of extreme flare leg jeans (some things should have really been left in the 20th century), and for others, trends are thought of as the first steppingstone to discoveries and advancements in our everyday lives. Healthcare is no exception with one of the current trends being social media-assisted collaborative healthcare.
Yes. We do, and we have for as long as there have been doctors and therapists and other medical professionals. Generally speaking, interprofessional collaborative healthcare has looked like this: you go to your General Practitioner Doctor (family doctor) with a medical problem – for this scenario you took a fall recently and even though you decided you weren’t hurt enough to go to the ER, your knee still hurts. Your doctor looks at your knee and can’t see anything except maybe a little swelling. Your doctor then sends you for an x-ray, maybe an MRI and depending on those results he may even refer you to an Orthopaedic Surgeon and then that surgeon will likely refer you to a Physiotherapist afterward. Your interprofessional collaborative healthcare team for your injured knee now consists of five healthcare professionals.
There has been a new addition to the standard inter-professional collaborative healthcare team and that is you and your peers. Specifically, online peers and communities found on social media platforms have opened discussions on various medical issues.
How many times lately have you heard a family member, friend, or colleague say ‘look at this video I just found. I am pretty sure this is what I have been dealing with’ or ‘I went to my doctor the other day and took this video to him; he did a bunch of tests and now I am finally receiving appropriate treatment.’
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There is a steep rise in the number of people who are turning to social media apps, like TikTok, to tell their stories and journeys getting their diagnosis in the hopes that their stories will help someone else who has been struggling to get their own diagnosis. Mental health professionals across the globe have seen an increase in patients coming to them with questions and concerns about their mental health based on what they are seeing on TikTok and other social media channels. It has further opened the door to the complexities of getting a mental health diagnosis and has helped patients feel that they are truly not alone in their struggles.
The sense of community that is being developed by people that share their health issues and diagnoses online is the most amazing by-product of social media-assisted collaborative healthcare. People that may have felt in the past that they were alone in their struggles are now seeing that they are not alone. Those same people, who may have been afraid to reach out before for fear of judgement or being brushed off, are now reaching out to medical healthcare professionals to get the treatment that they need to bring back the quality of living to their lives.
Healthcare, in general, has become less scary. Healthcare professionals are less intimidating and are turning to social media to show their human side as well as to get information out to patients all over the world. At any given time, you can open TikTok and search for the keywords “doctor” or “nurse” or even a health problem that you have, and you will come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of videos where other people and healthcare professionals will discuss symptoms, what to watch for, and how to get a diagnosis.
In an article published by Healio, Dr. Austin Chiang, (MD, MPH) director of bariatric endoscopy at Jefferson Health and founder and president of the Association for Healthcare Social Media, is quoted as saying: “If we’re not on these social media platforms as health professionals, then the conversation would be dominated by people who don’t have the appropriate training.” In that same article, Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, professor of medicine at Brown University says: “The time for any physician to discount social media platforms is over. I don’t think we should ignore it, and I don’t think we should pretend that it doesn’t make a difference, because it is, it’s making a huge difference.”
Their efforts to combine the power of social media with healthcare are not going unnoticed. If you really want to see the social media assisted collaborative healthcare trend in action, jump on TikTok and dive into #MentalHealthTok, #ADHDTok or #OBGYN and scroll through the millions of videos of people that have expressed concerns with the treatment they are receiving (and what they have done about it), received a diagnosis after years of suffrage (thanks to social media), or are experiencing symptoms that they don’t know how to explain to their doctor. You will find all kinds of patients and healthcare professionals sharing their knowledge and stories while virtually wrapping their arms around those in the community that need their help.
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Yes, there are drawbacks to social media-assisted collaborative healthcare. The main one is that some people are extremely susceptible to what they see online and can find themselves experiencing symptoms that they don’t have, seeking treatment for illnesses they don’t have, incorrectly self-diagnosing and potentially clogging up the healthcare system affecting the ability of our healthcare professionals to quickly and effectively treat those patients who are experiencing illness.
There is also a lot of misinformation on social media and sometimes you will come across people identifying as healthcare professionals when, in fact, they are not. This is where it is very important to do your research and find facts from accredited sources. If research is not your thing, then you should seek out a trusted healthcare professional for their advice before self-diagnosing or seeking treatment.
Whether the healthcare industry is ready for it or not, social media assisted collaborative healthcare is changing how we see and access healthcare and that’s a good thing. From TikTok medical advice to telehealth and e-health services being offered more and more, access to information and consultation with medical providers is becoming easier for everyone across the world. The future of healthcare is exciting and with the assistance of technology real change is happening every day.
The team at Caring Support is a big promoter of change and innovation within the healthcare industry - that’s why we do what we do in our drive to connect healthcare professionals with organizations where together they can make a difference and bring about the change within our healthcare system in Canada and the world that we need. We see the benefit to having social media as a tool used by healthcare professionals to help bring about that change, and we are excited to see what the future has in store for healthcare in Canada.
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