Social savvy: Social networking a valuable way to build relationships with patients

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 - iPhone apps, social media

Social media stands to offer radiologists ways to engage in meaningful conversations with patients and the general public, according to an editorial published online Jan. 28 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Social media outlets offer patients a means to take charge of their own healthcare through research and connection with patients with similar conditions as well as medical professionals, according to authors Whitney Fishman Zember, MBA, with Medgar Evans College in New York, and colleagues.

“Although they may not personally know other people with similar illnesses, social media have the ability to help these people become more knowledgeable, as well as feel socially supported and empowered,” Zember et al wrote.  “In fact, research has shown that chronically ill patients using social media, including social media platforms designed for patients with various conditions, have experienced improved behavioral and clinical outcomes.”

As patients build trusted medical networks on social media, how do radiologists meaningfully participate while keeping ethics and privacy in mind? Zember and colleagues offered a couple suggestions:

  • Consider HIPAA guidelines when posting and deciding what’s appropriate to share and what isn’t.
  • Be selective in interactions—maintaining professional boundaries between doctors and patients protects both sides from exploitations.

In deciding to establish an online presence, the authors noted that one of the biggest trends in the radiology community is discussions about increasing radiology’s visibility among patients.

“Social media might allow us to convey the importance of our specialty to patients in a direct way that we were never able to do when relying solely on face-to-face contact,” the authors wrote.

Zember et al noted that while many groups and physicians have avoided social media interaction due to lack of monetization, engagement on networks among patients and physicians provide valuable word-of-mouth advertising and first-hand testimonials.

“There is little doubt that social media will, in the near future, play a major role in determining the long-term financial success or failure of some radiology groups,” they concluded.

For more, check out Health Imaging’s recently published “Social Media Marketing Tips from a Radiology Perspective.”