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According to statistics taken from ‘Business Insider UK’, in 2016, 99% of 16 to 24-year-olds use social media on at least a weekly basis. This therefore means we will be the first collective group of young people to take the social image we’ve created for ourselves online into a professional networking environment. One in which, as a doctor, the conduct expected within a normal working environment is identical to those expected online.
While social media has often been studied investigating its negative impact, there is no getting away from its ever-increasing popularity. This is a telling sign that it is here to stay and will soon inevitably become a staple part of future professional working environments. Being able to harness social media and use it positively could have a resounding impact on public healthcare.
A particular aspect of social media that may be constructively used by physicians moving forward, is the ability it gives to share. Being able to share research or new findings with other doctors from all around the world could be an immensely impactful feature of social media to improve the way healthcare is being carried out everywhere around the globe. Doctors in general are often curious and inquisitive characters, so being able to readily communicate, compare and critique ideas with others in a similar state of mind from around the world could lead to stark improvements in treatments and care of patients. This also may allow doctors working in countries where medical care is not as advanced, to readily contact foreign physicians to seek advice on potential treatments for problematic cases which may be very beneficial to a great number of patients. Aside from this social media may be used to raise public awareness over important health care issues by using it as a tool in a ‘mass media campaign’.
The GMC guidelines state that doctors must hold themselves to the same high standards online as in real life, which means always appreciating patient confidentiality as well as always treating colleagues with respect. The GMC also advise that privacy settings be checked on social media and physicians must be aware that social media platforms ‘cannot guarantee confidentiality’. This aside the GMC also acknowledge the potential positive ways that social media may be used – allowing physicians to confer over topical healthcare issues, allowing doctors to communicate with colleagues from around the UK and abroad, and also serves as an outlet to inform patients of ways to access healthcare.
Social media used appropriately could be an invaluable tool to the public healthcare system. By correctly utilising the already existing platforms or by creating a social media page exclusively for physicians. For our generation who has spent many of our teenage years on social media, it has become second nature to post on Instagram or like something on Facebook, using and harnessing this acquired online experience in the future could fundamentally alter the ways public healthcare is delivered.
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