Ms Jen Morris
“Using social media to collaborate and transcend the traditional practitioner-patient divide.”
Jen Morris is a patient advocate, science writer, healthcare consultant and public health researcher. She works at the Melbourne University and an active community committee member of AHPRA, amongst other organisations to instil patient perspectives back into the medical practitioner field.
Social media has offered Doctors a gift: insight into the patient side of medicine- something that can often be overlooked. Social media has begun to smash down old barriers in all medical fields, and often offers a way of ‘just getting stuff done.’
The medical industry has hoarded information in the past, and with the onset of social media, this is no longer the case. Patients now have greater access to information which allows them to have more informed choice.
Informed choice with the following elements of medical care:
(2) Potential benefits
(3) Risks involved
(6) Choice of practitioner
(7) Health service
It’s now very important for the medical field to ensure that social media is understood and managed, as it's a large part of the medical field, whether they like it or not. A loud, communicative patient on social media isn’t always the most informed, and so, it is important that informed medical professionals join the conversation.
Social media should be embraced. Not only can Doctors now provide information for patients, it’s also a chance for Doctors to source information too.
The reality is, regardless of how a Doctor feels about it, patients ARE searching online for medical information and proactively making decisions for themselves, and so it is a responsibility for a medical professional to guide, not judge.
Doctors must NOT shun or belittle patients for doing this (called cyber-snobbery):
(1) This drives an instant wedge between GPs and patients from the onset
(2) No amount of persuasion will stop them from searching social media for answers
(3) Doing this will isolation patients and make them fearful
(4) It will also stop them from confession they are looking online, which will break down communication and stop the Doctor from having the opportunity to guide them correctly.
(5) Doctors should want to know what their patients are searching for and researching
(6) Doctors should be helping and assisting patients in their craving for more information, not reprimanding them for taking an active role
(7) Patients should be praised for taking more of an active role in their illness, as Doctors have been telling them for decades- now that they are, it should not be discouraged.
(8) Social media is not going away, so it’s better to embrace and manage it, than simply ignore it.
Unfortunately, most of the damage in this area has already been done, but it’s important to start to repair patient confidence.
As painful as it can be to admit, GPs now need to realise that some patients are extremely well-informed (sometimes even more than a GP), and this should be embraced, not feared. It creates a partnership in their illness.
On social media, feedback, suggestions and questions from patients should be treated as a gift, not a burden. The fact that someone has taken the time to provide insight into something that a medical professional may not know of is an opportunity to be aware and improve.
If you choose to be absent on social media, you forgo the positives and worse, miss the opportunities to respond and improve, which is far worse.
Social media can also improve patient-doctor relationships by offering a space to open communication over a shared medical passion or interest, rather than a day-to-day medical appointment over illness.