The social media landscape is changing constantly and influencing all realms of society — and health care is no exception.
Approximately seven out of 10 Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content and share information as well as for entertainment, according to statistics from Pew Research Center.
Social media — which includes online platforms ranging from Twitter and Facebook to personal blogs, websites and forums — is increasingly being used to enhance communication among physicians, patients and advocacy groups, including those involved in cancer care.
Social media has been gaining traction in oncology for years, with evidence suggesting more clinicians are engaging online than ever before, according to Mark A. Lewis, MD, director of gastrointestinal oncology at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah.
“It was once seen as frivolous to engage in conversations online, but now there is a critical mass of oncologists who are well-respected with whom anyone can engage online,” Lewis said during an interview with HemOnc Today. “Everyone can benefit from social media, and it is a platform that encourages dialogue. A rising tide lifts all boats — with progress and better understanding, social media has become an effective way to share information in parallel with the peer-reviewed literature.”
HemOnc Today spoke with social media gurus within the oncology community about the do’s and don’ts of social media in medicine, how the changing social media landscape is affecting cancer care, and how physicians can leverage social media to their benefit.
Experts with whom HemOnc Today spoke agreed unanimously that the potential benefits of social media are vast and include the ability to educate, share good practices and provide access to medical meetings.
Shaalan Beg, MD, associate professor in the department of gastrointestinal oncology and medical director of the Clinical Research Office at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said social media democratizes communication in medicine.
“Social media tears down walls and allows communication to take place — social media increases patient engagement by gathering messages from physician experts, societies and journals and delivers the information directly to patients,” Beg told HemOnc Today. “There also is communication within the medical community. Health professionals who may not have otherwise communicated are able to speak with one another.”