Social Media and Medicine

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With every passing day, social media becomes more relevant to the medical community. Online activity continues to climb, content is used to guide consumption and opinions are easy to come by.
Humans are social creatures. Our relational ties to family and friends play an enormous role in shaping our beliefs and opinions while impacting our daily decisions, such as our buying habits. With the maturation of social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus, we’ve never been more closely connected or more able to distribute information quickly and effectively.
In fact, use of social media continues to expand in all age groups, according to a recent Pew research study. Usage for those age 50-64 has increased a whopping 88% from the previous year, from 25% to 47%. Meanwhile, use among those age 65 and older doubled, from 13% in April 2009 to 26% in May 2010.
These virtual communities are just as strong as our real life circles. According to digital consultancy Social Media Influence, 67 percent of shoppers are influenced by their social media community. And what are people shopping for these days? Increasingly, its information and rankings of healthcare providers, including primary care physicians.
Medical professionals don’t necessarily need to become super users of Twitter and Facebook, but at the very least, they should be cognizant of how word of mouth spreads in today’s technology-charged society. They should stay connected to various social networking platforms, search engines and review sites so that they can monitor their online reputation. And possibly encourage patient advocates of their practices to share their positive experiences online.

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