This Wednesday we held a highly engaging panel discussion at our London office as part of Social Media Week. The topic was ‘Health is social: Patient empowerment or confusion?’ We were delighted to welcome so many people, and the size of our office was certainly tested, as latecomers piled in through the door and watched from the sidelines.
Our CEO Charlie Grieve, who was chairing the event was joined by:
- Amy Burton, Digital Engagement Executive, Diabetes UK
- George du Toit, Paediatric Allergy Consultant, The Portland Hospital
- Andrew Schorr, Founder, Patient Power
- Sneh Khemka, COO, Advanced Oncotherapy
The panellists each explained their experience of social media within the healthcare sector. From supporting patients with chronic diseases and giving access to a wealth of patient stories, to helping patients see the more human side of their own healthcare practioners, all four pannelists extolled the virtues of social media. Perhaps the most moving comment of the evening came from Andrew Schorr:
“If it hadn’t been for social media… there’s no doubt about it – I’d be dead.”
What followed was an interesting discussion about the values of the various social platforms. Amy Burton’s experience meant she understood the extraordinary level of support offered on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to people with the same disease. While George du Toit favours Twitter for its speed, Amy praised Google+ for its Hangouts function, explaining that Diabetes UK has been using them to give face-to-face support. Diabetes UK is even on Vine, and they are currently working out how best to use the platform.
‘The diabetes online community includes everyone and it’s interesting to see how technology enhances communication.’ – Amy Burton
It was agreed by everyone that social media gives patients more knowledge about their illnesses and medication. Andrew explained how people he met on the internet years ago gave him important information that helped him to steer his treatment and eventual recovery. The wealth of health information now availabe online means that people have access to real-time performance of treatments across thousands of health conditions – even some of the rarest.
“I have not a doubt in my mind that social media is empowering patients.’ – Sneh Khemka
However, it was noted by all panellists that not all health information online is correct. It’s important to work out whether people who claim to be ‘health experts’ really are or not… and this can be very difficult. Sneh warned of the dangers of misleading health information and recommended that patients only trust information that is written by a reliable source.
What one change would the panellists like to see? Both Amy and George said that they would like more healthcare professionals engaging with online communities. Sneh suggested that by introducing a tariff for social media consultations it would engage healthcare professionals. Whether this will come into play or not is hard to say, but what we can take away from the session is that social media has a positive impact on healthcare, and that the future of healthcare and social media is exciting!
By Victoria Crump-Haill, Senior Digital Account Manager