“Friending” Your Doctor
The term “friending” refers to adding someone to a list of friends on a social media website. This list is more of a contact database rather than meaning someone on it is actually your friend. And yet, the popularity of social media can’t be ignored. It’s everywhere and we use it to connect with our family, friends, and coworkers. Now, think about what we could do if we used this to communicate with our doctor.
The first thing you’re probably thinking is that it will violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), but you wouldn’t use it to share sensitive, confidential information that crosses professional and ethical boundaries. You would use it to manage your health care and access health information.
If health care organizations can figure out how to use Facebook, or other social media websites, to their benefit, then they will have a real advantage with their patients. In an article on The Huffington Post titled, Communicating With Your Doctor On Facebook May Be The Future Of Healthcare, it said that many organizations (also known as telemedicine and is the use of electronic and telecommunications technologies to provide health care from a distance) are well on their way to utilizing email and social media. For example, telehealth organizations have electronic ways for patients to use messaging, access test results, track their health, etc.
A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, showed that many patients are interested in this type of communication, but they may be unaware that it’s available. If you’re still not sold on the concept of communicating with your doctor via email or social media, consider the benefits. You could have faster and ‘round-the-clock access to health care professionals. In addition, you would be able to better manage and monitor your health care and do it from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Doctors and health care organizations would benefit from the “social” aspect by extending their clinical reach to people in rural areas or outside the typical radius of a health care facility. Furthermore, they could provide real-time information so that the community at large can benefit from their expertise.
As with all technology, there are pros and cons as well as a definite learning curve associated with it. While this can initially limit both the patients’ and doctors’ ability to effectively use the new technology, once they become more familiar with the ins and outs, they should feel confident enough to rely on its benefits.