Patient Engagement Through Social Media

Stage 2 includes new objectives to improve patient care through better clinical decision support, care coordination, and patient engagement. For patient engagement requirements and to successfully attest to Meaningful Use, the patient action will be more than 5% of a practice’s patients sending secure messages to the provider and more than 5% of the patients accessing their health information online. Does you practice have a plan? Are you implementing a plan?


First up is social media. Healthcare trends show a movement to a patient-centric model. In this model the patient is in charge of their own health care and they are building their trusted networks. These trusted networks will be people and communities off and online. You and your practices need to be available to be included in your patient’s trusted networks both off and online. You will need a plan of what, when, and how social media will be used by your practice. And once you open accounts and start your campaigns it is very important to keep them active with current and relevant information. Don’t expect immediate results, be prepared for a commitment. Review and edit your practice policies to reflect the use of social media and remember you can’t always take back what has been posted and seen. And of course, always keep in mind privacy and HIPAA compliance.

Physicians, lawmakers, and EHR developers alike are constantly looking for ways to improve the experience of using the software, engaging patients, and helping health IT take a central role in improving the quality and delivery of care. Many of the discussions about how to make things better take place in social media venues like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs: tools we use to communicate, share, and record our daily histories at a rate never before seen in human history. With patients increasingly becoming involved in their own care, it’s no wonder that many experts are considering how to integrate familiar and intuitive social media concepts into the collection and use of electronic health record (EHR) data.

While healthcare organizations have been using social media for marketing and branding purposes as long as any other business sector, they have been understandably reluctant to place tweets and Facebook posts on the same level of importance as what patients say in the consult room or exhibit during a physical examination. But millions of people share the intimate details of their lives with their network of friends and acquaintances. They might complain of feeling nauseous after taking a new medication on Twitter, but not think it’s worth calling their doctor about, or post a picture of their swollen ankle after a fall without realizing they should be seeking medical attention for a sprain. Shouldn’t physicians pay attention to this copious and potentially valuable set of data?

The community of care continues to expand well beyond the traditional experience in the clinic. While plenty of attention has been given to electronic health information in the process of patient engagement, there is much more to the patient experience in this expanding context.


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