Social media is widely used for exchanging news, photos and opinions. But today, it’s also being used by patients to share health information with their physicians.
Some 65 percent of millennials and 43 percent of all adults think it’s okay to contact doctors about health concerns by posting on their social media pages or through direct messaging, according to a 2018 American Osteopathic Association survey. And 54 percent of millennials and 42 percent of all adults would like to friend or follow their providers on social media. But is that wise?
Aside from privacy issues, social media “can lack the subtle emotions that help give context to information being shared, which can cause the meaning of messages to be misinterpreted,” says Jay Bhatt, DO, the American Hospital Association’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.
But while patients should not send their physician a photo of their rash over Facebook or post private health information, there is some value to connecting with providers online.
A medical practice’s social media presence may provide a window into what the physician or practice values, which allows patients to determine whether those values are consistent with their own, says Vineet Arora, MD, an academic hospitalist at UChicago Medicine.
Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.