Social Media, A Societal Trend Affecting Patient Education

Over the past five decades, numerous rapid technological changes have been recorded globally and currently impact nearly all spheres of modern life. In particular, the introduction of the internet and related services is among one of the most notable changes witnessed today. According to Carroll, Bruno & Vontschudi (2015), the internet has greatly transformed the process of communication, sharing of important messages, and peer-to-peer interaction within a relatively short period (p. 95). Today, it is more prevalent than ever; especially as a constant presence in our homes and within the workplace environment.  As a communication medium, the internet has also morphed from simple messaging and chatting services to sophisticated social media applications such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The widespread use of social media today has revolutionized remote interactions and resulted in the “online community” phenomenon where likeminded persons or individuals with similar interests associate on a continual basis. Yet, it remains imperative to consider the implications of such technological changes in nursing. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the Information Age is the ever-increasing population of individuals relying on the wide range of services on offer. A future consequence of this current state of affairs is an overall increase in the number of patients and nurses interacting in social media signifying an elevation in basic engagement capabilities. Millennials in the nursing profession grapple with the idea of promoting such changes in a profession with a sizeable older generation which is generally conservative.  Nursing in the Information Age, therefore, represents a yardstick with far reaching consequences for the medical professions the provision of care, and mainly in patient education.

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Fundamentals of Social Media    

            The initial introduction of social media as a major element of the Information Age prompted pundits versed in society’s transformation to posit a future focused on interactions, communication, and education.  Initial speculations were subsequently realized when social media emerged as a key tool in learning and communication owing to the relative ease of access and overall affordability. Today, the permeation of the Telehealth portent, as a product of social media, has seen a considerable improvement in nursing frameworks on patient education (Moorhea, Hazlett, Harrison, Irwin, & Hoving, 2017). Messages transmitted through social media platforms reach the intended target within a relatively shorter period and serves as the epitome of speedy communication. Web platforms and e-mails provide a unique opportunity to relay important information within a relatively short period, allowing nurses to communicate with patients intending to share crucial information regarding their wellbeing. If any of the questions posed remain unanswered, patients are often referred to a specialist versed in the medical field specified to guarantee access to accurately specified information.

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 Furthermore, the internet is seemingly bottomless repository of information and data which can be harnessed to improve individual’s overall wellbeing. Patient education today may also involve actively searching for healthcare information from credible peer-reviewed journal articles and online textbooks. The emergence of this trend is part of a new wave of ideas which underscore the significance of individuals being cognizant of information relevant to their health any given period (Ventola, 2018). For instance, patients today supplement instructions offered during the initial assessment with useful instructional material from government agencies such as the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  This relative ease of access to information through social media ensures a greater population, ranging from health science students, nurse practitioners, and educators, gain succinct comprehension of best practices applied today within the healthcare sector (Sinclair, Mcloughlin, & Warne, 2015).

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The internet, through social media platforms and applications, has recently enabled healthcare practitioners to offer consultations, evaluations, therapy, and patient education remotely through innovative technology. Efforts to increase the number of platforms offering such services are informed by the essential nature of health promotion today. The initial discharge of patients and subsequent expectations placed on them represents some of the most precarious phases in healthcare. Patients are known to experience a great deal of difficulty sticking to a treatment plan which would otherwise improve their wellbeing (Ventola, 2018). Failure to adhere to available treatment options may be a sign of patient’s reservations to a particular treatment option due to insufficient information regarding its actual significance. Social media offers a unique opportunity for patients to ask pertinent questions about medication management in a bid to improve healthcare outcomes. Additionally, innovative technologies such as video conferencing promote direct correspondence between patients and healthcare providers for the purpose of clarification or further directions on a treatment plan.

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The introduction of this new subset of healthcare has significantly improved its quality by now allowing primary care providers to liaise with specialists who provide crucial care information to promote care delivery. Proponents of using social media in care provision view current trends as a major revolution in the definition of the most appropriate conduits of pertinent healthcare information while particularly aspiring to foster health promotion. Such efforts are likely to address healthcare disparities recorded in the United States today by guaranteeing unlimited access to information capable of promoting care-seeking behavior, ultimately reducing major emergency room cases. The presence of support groups in social media platform has played an invaluable role in offering a sense of community in a manner bound to improve patient outcomes by sticking to the treatment plans provided and in reducing stigma. Innovations such as telepsychiatry apply social media to engage directly with patients. Pertinent questions posed during the course of routine consultations are explored extensively in a manner that explores the behavioral and primary care aspects to guarantee comprehensive coverage.

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Professional Standards

While social media is commonly hailed as a positive development today, it remains crucial to acknowledge its drawbacks. The prevalence of social media use within the workplace environment for the purpose of patient education today is also associated with misuse. Evidence of blatant misuse of social media within professional settings is prohibited, with offenders risking stern legal and disciplinary action (Grajales , Sheps, Ho, Novak-Lauscher, & Eysenbach, 2016).  The aforementioned standard is also applicable within a clinical setting and may result in lawsuits for periodic offenders.  Healthcare facilities are, therefore, advised to develop and maintain an elaborate code to ensure ethical considerations are upheld and cases of malpractice accorded the appropriate punitive action.

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Conclusion                                                      

Recent technological advances, such as the internet and social media, have by far transformed healthcare and patient education today. The Information Age provides patients with a wide range of options, ranging from online consultations, telemedicine and even to Telepsychiatry. The common thread among these transformations is the application of social media to eventually improve patient outcomes. With the application of professional standards, patients are bound to expect the highest standards of care within a new dispensation.

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