These days, it seems like everyone from Justin Bieber, to Cirque du Soleil, to the president of the United States is using social media in some way, for good or for ill. In fact, according to SocialMediaToday, there were 2.8 billion active social media users worldwide as of January 2017. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are the most popular platforms. So how has the dramatic rise of social media over the past five years impacted healthcare, both positively and negatively? Are providers, medical distributors, surgical suppliers and more embracing social media?

The good

Social media seems to have affected the healthcare sector just as much as any other business sector. In fact, several of the largest healthcare companies in the U.S. regularly use social media, including UnitedHealth Group, CVS, and AmerisourceBergen.

Though rarely used for diagnostic purposes, these platforms do allow doctors to more easily share and compare information, trends, results, and more. Responsible use of social media can improve physician-patient interactions and provide assistance with appointments and referrals. If they think outside the box, doctors can help motivate patients to live a healthier lifestyle. Platforms such as Twitter and YouTube are helpful in providing accurate information—how many patients might be interested in information regarding vaccines or other hotly debated topics?

Organizations from hospitals to distributors can use social media to communicate in time of crisis on topics like operational and ER status and product availability. For example, medical specialties distributors could use social media platforms to keep customers updated on a potential product shortage, or the availability of specific supplies important to our customers such as surgical sutures and other wound care products.

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