Turn Up The Patient Voice

We are living in what some would call the “e-patient era.” The typical e-patient searches the web to find out more about her symptoms and health conditions before ever setting foot in a doctor’s office. She connects with other patients over discussion boards and posts opinions about treatments and facilities she’s experienced. Maybe she even evaluates the quality of your care.

"Today’s patients have a power they’ve never had before. They are using new data sources more and more, actively seeking out resources and understanding their own bodies better with the help of the Internet," says Sally Okun, RN, health data integrity manager at PatientsLikeMe, a free social network that connects people who are coping with similar health conditions.

“Eight out of 10 web users routinely search online for health information between their physician office visits. And they’re not just gathering information; they’re getting encouragement from other patients across the world, sharing their own experiences, and learning more about new treatment options,” says Okun. “It has never been easier for patients to connect with others and have a strong voice in guiding their own care.”

Okun’s advice to clinicians: be aware of the power of social media and make the most of the limited time you have to spend with patients. “Stay informed and don’t get left behind,” she says. “These websites can be great tools to get patients more engaged with their treatment plans. Don’t be afraid to use them, to help enhance the patient experience and improve long-term compliance.”

Social media isn't just for patients!

Brittney Wilson, RN, BSN, creator of The Nerdy Nurse blog encourages nurses to use social media tools to expand their caregiver communities, increase their clinical knowledge, and share their own expertise with online audiences.

“Nurses have valuable information to share, and social media provides powerful and useful vehicles for us to document our experiences," says Wilson. "Whether you try LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogspot, or one of the many other sites out there, it's worth it to make contact and share resources with other talented, passionate clinicians on the web.”

Here are some tips from The Nerdy Nurse on using social media responsibly:

1. Be honest and up-front with your employer.
Let your employer know about your level of participation on public websites, and make sure the relationship (or lack thereof) between your social media platform and your employer is clearly defined. Also, be sure that your web activities do not interfere with your job responsibilities--that means no blogging on the clock!

2. Do right by your patients and colleagues.
Educate yourself about what information is appropriate or inappropriate to share online. Never misrepresent yourself, or reveal confidential information about your patients. Always keep your interactions and blogs positive.

3. Inspire other clinicians to join you!
Network with other caregivers, share your social media successes, and make your profession proud!