Social networks and health, an opportunity that still has far to go

8 Oct

Josep Vidal AlaballJosep Vidal Alaball, Family Doctor. EAP Artés (ICS)

Whatever the field, social networks open a range of opportunities. Their features has been changing many people’s lives for many years, starting with the closest relationships to organizations, companies and brands around us and yes, even the medical staff.

In the health field, I’m not quite sure whether the social networks should be used to improve the relationship and interaction with patients, as this aspect should be dealt with in everyday consultations. What is certain is that social networks can be used to enable patients to consult doctors or reinforce aspects that sometimes can not be completely covered during a medical consultation. A good example is the use of inhalers. Sometimes, it can be easier for a professional to recommend patients a video showing how people with respiratory diseases use it, instead of briefly and superficially teaching the correct technique during the consultation.

Furthermore, in the field of disease prevention and health promotion, social networks can lead a long way ahead. Currently, we see a great interest in issues related to the acquisition of healthy habits and I believe that it would be a good thing if the healthcare professionals would participate and contribute their knowledge and experience.

Online chats to answer questions are also very positive but we must be careful. As it happens with some radio programs where medical questions are answered live, these spaces for interaction should focus on generic aspects and not go into patients’ specific details. By contrast, chats and other forms of interaction between professionals are very useful as they help to share experiences and knowledge. In this sense, the chances and philosophy of new tools such as the Observatory of Innovation in Health Management is remarkable.

On similar notes, one of the other technological experiences have given better results over recent years have been the telemedicine programs implemented in Central Catalonia. I had the privilege to develop it whilst I undertook management tasks and now I have the good fortune to enjoy it in my daily tasks as a clinical professional. Innovative practices such as remote consultations in dermatology, ulcers, audiometric and MRI facilitate our daily work and receive good feedback from users. We can not wait any longer their implementation throughout Catalonia.

These experiences are exemplary and demonstrate the best aspects of the social networking uses, but in parallel with the promotion of these new opportunities, I believe we need more education and training to understand their correct usage and also their limitations and weaknesses so we know how to avoid them. In addition, it’s still difficult for health professionals to find courses on new technologies and social networks organized routinely by public institutions whilst patients are also faced with further deficiencies. The necessity of improving on this area is indisputable if we want to get the best results with the incorporation of new technologies in health management.

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