The Affordability Care Act and social media have a lot in common. The phrase “social media” only appears once in the ACA, on page 901 of the 955 page document. Yet the legislation’s DNA is filled with it. Much of the legislation’s intent and spirit focuses on patient-centered care (PCC). In short, PCC is about shifting more of the power in health care to patients and coordinating care around them. One of its goals is to redistribute more responsibility onto the patient, empowering them to take ownership of their health throughout the cycle of care.
Social networks are built on a similar premise. The better coordinated an individual’s network, the more they gain from it. As health care continues to evolve, innovators will undoubtedly look to social media for inspiration and direct use.
How? The possibilities might as well be endless. But a recent American Medical Association article provides a great starting point from the provider perspective.
Discover patient levels of interest
Social media communities can actively create conversations around ways to screen for and treat disease in a patient-friendly way. In a social environment, patients are more likely to share what they are and are not willing to do when it comes to improving their health. And this is the key to establish patient buy-in.
Overhaul your customer service
Social media initiatives allow businesses to respond to customer complaints immediately. For decades, health care providers, hospitals and institutions relied on paper surveys to measure the quality of their customer service. Now, building an online patient communities practically guarantee unhappy patients an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction. Health care professionals must part of that conversation when it happens.
Explore therapies in practice
Online interactions surrounding medical therapies offer the opportunity to monitor real outcomes. When observed through the realities of a patient’s life, therapies of all kinds can be tested in new ways. And, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Contraindications, off-label uses and adherence data will all come to life through social media. Aggregating and making sense of patient data in a social environment can speak tremendous volumes about how patients use their therapies, pulling the curtain back and aiding in medical efficiencies.
One of the ACA’s explicit goals is to provide clarity in an industry that has hidden behind a cloak for decades. In support or opposition of the legislation, few can argue with the need for better and more readily available information. Social media creates the space for people to share, often in the interest of leaving the conversation better off than when they joined it. If today’s patients, providers and payers aim to provide better quality care while simultaneously driving down costs, social media must be part of the solution’s DNA.
Dov Hirsch is the senior director of corporate communications for Nashville-based Alana HealthCare.