Social Media: Beware of Anti-social Healthcare

As more health professionals get enthused about the vast potential of social media, we must remain conscientious not to stray off course….

On Sunday 8th June, I read an interesting piece in the Herald Sun newspaper, titled “Unsocial Media”, written by a Lauren Wilson. The underlying message in the article was that many Australian’s now spend more time interacting with each other than they do in person. I tried to find a copy to link to this post but I couldn’t….for that I apologise. I hope some of you got the chance to read it.

A primary statistic presented in the article was that “more than half of Aussies aged 18-34 now spend more time interacting with friends and family on social media than in person”. Apart from the insinuated loss of human connection, the telling feature was a suggestion that for some heavy social media users, social disconnection was a known occurrence. One of the final comments in the article was that despite a large portion of people turning to social media to connect, they may only be bringing people together on a superficial level.

As I enthusiastically look forward to my speaking engagements at the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s 2014 Business and Leadership Symposium later this year, this all gets me thinking….

Are we in any danger of becoming “anti-social” health practitioners?

The core content I’ll be involved in presenting at this year’s symposium will be all about how physiotherapists can learn the ins and outs of social media and apply it best in their practice. Perhaps this seemingly unrelated Herald Sun article holds some truths and prompts an underlying warning for those of us in health. It feels as though to me, health professionals in Australia are only really just starting to enter the social media space head on (I appreciate some have been doing it well for years). While I applaud this and am enthusiastic about the future for our profession, I’m also weary about social media use by some of my peers at large. I still see a lot of health professionals using Facebook, Twitter, Linked In (the list goes on) to carpet bomb patients and colleagues with a variety of messages, invites and offers to visit their clinics. In a weird way, some of us in health may be guilty of getting over-excited about using social media as a giant megaphone, rather than true tools to enhance interactive dialogue and relationship building.

Health professionals are intelligent, committed and discerning individuals. We approach complex clinical presentations and are able in a short amount of time to problem solve and manage people’s health. All the while, involving our patients in the process, thus building trust and meaningful relationships .

With this in mind I revisit the central message that got me to write this piece. I implore the health fraternity to persist with social media. Getting it right can lead to both business success and improved outcomes for patients. However, don’t forget what our core business is….’patient care’. If you choose to use social media in your professional life, remember that regardless of what you’re trying to achieve in the short term by posting that status update, you are ultimately trying to bring patients in the door to positively impact their health. I come back to one of my favourite sayings, “social media for social media’s sake doesn’t work”. Have a purpose for tweeting, etc and you’ll be rewarded.

How have you attempted to be a “social” clinician online? Do you have any tips to avoid “anti-social media” use in health?


Mark Merolli, illorem




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