Friday, October 4, 2013

Social Media Changes Preventative Medicine: Here's How

If you suffer from allergies like I do you can relate to the misery of allergy season hitting before you are ready. Stuffed up and puffy, a panicked call to the allergist is made begging for a new prescription of nose spray or anti-histamine. 

Imagine if 10 days before each allergy season your doctor sent out a tweet, a post on facebook and an email alerting you. Instead of being “sneak attacked” by symptoms you could prepare in advance and avoid the dreaded emergency “ I need something to help immediately” call or even worse a rush to the hospital.

This scenario is exactly why doctors have started utilizing social media in a revolutionary way. More and more of them are creating accounts and using them to push relevant information to their patients, share events, and give advice. The outcome is more prepared, informed and connected patients, and less emergency calls for doctors.

So… Is It Working?

In a recent visit to my allergist, my doctor excitedly asked me “are you on social media?” A bit caught off guard I told him that indeed I was and asked why he asked me.  After he informed me of his new Facebook, Twitter, and email push alert accounts we talked at length about what the effects have been on his practice. According to his office records, which track all emergency calls and the full medical history of all patients, emergency calls to his office have dropped nearly 70% since implementing a social media strategy.  What he has found is that the same people were calling each year with emergencies because they were having flare ups from their allergies. Now with his new social media strategy, he updates facebook and twitter with the upcoming allergy aggravates as well as sends push notifications through email to his patients.   As he explained to me, college students and busy working people (the majority of his patients) don't always think to check for themselves when pollen season is coming, or how much ragweed is in the city they are traveling to. Since most of these people are already utilizing social media, the most effective way to reach  and prepare them is through social media. For him, social media has proved in a short period of time to be an exceptional tool for preventative medicine. 

Because social media use by physicians for information pushing and treatment is new, we do not yet have sufficient data to conclude on its effectiveness. However, there is no doubt social media will continue to penetrate the medical sphere and in the case of my allergist has already proven to be a helpful tool. 


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