A Healthy Understanding
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Social Media's Role in Patient Engagement

Health Literacy & Patient Health Education, Meet Social Media?

Health literacy is currently a major source of concern for many. By definition, health literacy calls on consumers to use basic health information to make healthy choices. But only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy! This means nine out of 10 adults may have trouble managing their health.

This can be bad for many reasons. For example, it makes it harder for consumers to manage their health. It makes it more difficult for them to prevent disease. And it means that they are more likely to visit a hospital for help.

How can this problem be solved? Part of being health literate is being able to obtain information. Improving access to sources of health information could start to address the problem. This may include using social media to help educate patients.

Can Social Media Really Make A Difference?

Social media can definitely reach many people. 73% of Internet users have recently searched for health information. Social media now reaches 4 out of 5 people in the U.S. This means social media channels are easily accessible. They are also used by many individuals. And posting information to them is a very natural event. This could make them a great health literacy tool.

Social media could give people free information about their health. When people can look for answers to their health problems, they are able to understand these issues better. Groups such as Health Literacy Missouri have taken advantage of this fact to successfully engage with people.

Facebook and Twitter can also let these patients talk to their doctors. Of course, these sites cannot replace actual visits. But they can help people ask questions before or after appointments. This gives them a chance to engage in their health. It lets them receive help at all times - not just during a visit!

All of this works to make people more health literate. Giving people a chance to ask questions help them create a better understanding of their health. When more people understand healthcare, they are able to start taking better care of themselves. This means fewer visits to the doctor. It also means less expensive health problems!

How Can We Turn Social Media Into Reliable Sources of Health Information?

Healthcare providers can definitely use social media to their benefit. Start by being a resource for health knowledge. Give free and helpful information to educate your patients. This can be as simple as sharing good articles on Facebook or Twitter for people to read. Sharing guidelines on bad sources of information is also helpful. If you have time, it’s good to write blog posts as well. And patients will definitely love a well-made video!

You can also use social media to build a community. Create a voice to use on your sites that will make people comfortable with you and/or your practice. Maybe send gentle reminders to your patients to take their medications. You can also start online forums where people can ask questions. Spend time answering those questions so patients feel listened to.

When people can understand their health, healthcare providers can better treat them. The Internet and social media are just one way that we can break down the barriers between patients and doctors. When people are more health literate, they are healthier - and happier.

How to get started

If you're new to using social media, might not know where to start. Our advice: Don't over think it! Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media platform work just like one big conversation. We're sure you've talked to plenty of interesting people before. It's a lot like that. Sure. There are some basic manners for chatting on social media. But really,you just need to know what conversations to join. Symplur Signals offers a list at some common health care #hashtags to get you started. 

Good luck and be sure to connect to with us on Twitter and Facebook!


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Regional Health Literacy Coalition
500 Commonwealth Drive
Warrendale, PA 15086