Social media has many uses, from the basics of being able to stay abreast of what your friends are doing, to a way for companies to communicate with their customers.
It is a way of sharing the big or small moments in your life, but it can be so much more than that.
This is especially true in healthcare, where despite the clear confidentially restrictions put on how people can communicate, it is making a big difference.
The importance of social in healthcare goes beyond the simple one-to-one interactions that most people associate with healthcare, it allows for mass communication or individual healthcare.
It can cater to both the masses and niche, communicating the important information to the correct people.
A good example is NHS Blood and Transplant in the UK. They have 450,000 Facebook likes and 42,000 Twitter followers, who they interact with to share information. This could be from the location of a mobile blood bank to how the donated blood is being used to save lives.
It is essentially creating the opportunity for people to know about changes or important information and allow the service to attract more donors.
Similar work can be done across other areas of healthcare, helping to provide information to potential patients or those who want to help in a particular area. Having the ability to communicate with a wider audience can have huge benefits to the healthcare community.
Away from simple information dissemination, the creation of networks of similar patients can have a significant impact on their quality of life.
Networks can be created to help support sufferers of the same disease or similar conditions. These are not only useful for discussing the problem, but can also act as a vital support network.
Often the families and friends of sufferers will be supportive and help as much as they can, but ultimately will only ever have a limited understanding of what it is like living with a particular illness. Social media allows sufferers to connect with others who are going through the same treatments and living through complications.
Although we have discussed the potential benefits in patients and donors having more information sent through social media, this use of networking is perhaps the most important. Having a social network made up of those similar to you and who can relate to how a sufferer feels is vital to keep them mentally healthy.
The most important aspect to consider around this is the privacy given to the sufferers. The data held on them and the implications of having medical data made public is huge. Therefore, when using social media in this way, it is vital for companies or even just individuals to make sure that the security surrounding this is effective.
Ping Identity have been working with the NHS to make sure that this is the case.
Through this service, donors and patients can log in using their social media credentials and also receive reminders and alerts for upcoming appointments too.
Although some view social media as too open and risky, the work of many to help sufferers and those needing transplants or blood donations shows that it can both keep information safe and help those who really need it.