Welcome to 2021 everyone!
I hope you had a safe and healthy Happy New Year. If all goes according to plan, we will be celebrating the 9th anniversary of HCLDR in August this year – a milestone I never thought we would see when we started this journey in August of 2012.
I thought it would be fun to reflect on the state of healthcare social media to kick off the new year. Specifically, I’m interested in hearing the community’s opinions on: (a) How we are using social media for healthcare; (b) How the role of social media has changed.
A source of healthcare news
Personally, over the past several years, I’ve been using Twitter less and less to connect with people and more as a news source. Don’t get me wrong, I still love meeting new people on the platform, but I’ve found that there are fewer such interactions nowadays vs when I first starting using it 10 years ago. Instead, I have my twitter feed open to stay on top of the latest news in healthcare during the day.
For me, the quality of links and information shared on Twitter has improved over the years. This, of course, has more to do with the quality of the people that I follow on Twitter than anything the platform is doing to help curate content. This is also true of LinkedIn which I have begun to use more frequently in the past couple of years.
No longer about getting more clinicians to use social media
When I first started being active on Twitter, there were a lot of effort being put towards getting clinicians to use the platform to engage with patients and with peers. Healthcare organizations, for the most part, were actively discouraging doctors and nurses from using social media, fearing privacy issues and bad press. They clamped down with strict social media guidelines.
Thankfully, those have since been relaxed (somewhat), but I think it’s safe to say that many clinicians choose not to engage on public social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
I admit that I was a big proponent of this in those early days. I saw the connections being made on the social platforms and the value they were bringing to me personally as well as professionally. I naively thought that EVERYONE in healthcare would want the same.
I learned over time that not everyone wants to connect electronically. I also learned that not everyone who tried social media found value in the interactions they had. There is a lot of negativity and trolling that happens on social media. It is very easy to become disillusioned quickly if all you see are Tweets and posts tearing down individuals and their beliefs.
Where are we?
So what is the current state of healthcare social media? Is it still a place to connect with peers and like-mined individuals? Is it a useful medium for healthcare information or has there been too much mis-information pollution? Has the train left the station in terms of valuable interactions on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?
Or more positively…are we in a world now of where social media is all about humanizing each other through fun TikTok videos and gorgeous Instagram posts? Maybe social media is now where we can connect for causes (like climate change, gender equality, help for the poor, etc). Connecting for causes is something that this Forbes article covered.
Social Media + COVID
During the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, usage of social media for healthcare increased by 5.3% according to SproutSocial. This was mostly driven by the desire of the public to find out more information about the virus. Later in the pandemic, as distancing became the norm, social media became a place to reconnect with friends who you could no longer visit.
Hootsuite published the results of a study in September that showed Baby Boomers were using social media 14% more than they had prior to the outbreak: “Once reluctant to dive into social, baby boomers are now embracing messaging, spending more time on social media, and generally consuming more digital content. Most importantly, they maintained new digital habits formed during the pandemic.”
Tweetchat Tuesday January 5th at 8:30pm EST
Join the first #hcldr tweetchat of 2021 on Tuesday January 5th at 8:30pm EST (for your local time click here) when we will be discussing the following questions:

T1 Has your use of social media changed from when you first started? What other platforms are you using?

T2 What role does social media play for you now? For the general public?

T3 Does social media still have a role in healthcare? If so, what is it? If not, why not?

T4 How can we make HCLDR more valuable for you in 2021?

Daly, Catherine. “How 2020 Changed Social Media: Checking In On Our Trends Predictions”, Hootsuite, 3 September 2020, https://blog.hootsuite.com/2020-changed-predictions/, accessed 3 January 2021
Ehlers, Kelly. “Three Ways 2020 Has Changed The Social Media Landscape”, Forbes, 12 August 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2020/08/12/three-ways-2020-has-changed-the-social-media-landscape/?sh=689093e3731f, accessed 3 January 2021
Arens, Elizabeth. “How COVID-19 has changed social media engagement”, SproutSocial, 27 April 2020, https://sproutsocial.com/insights/covid19-social-media-changes/, accessed 3 January 2021
Huang, Pien. “Black Doctors Use Social Media To Share Accurate Information About COVID-19 Vaccine”, NPR, 1 January 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/01/01/952716747/black-doctors-use-social-media-to-share-accurate-information-about-covid-19-vacc, accessed 3 January 2021
Riepma, Brooklyn. “What Some People Are Doing To Fill The Social Distancing Space”, NPR, 19 March 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/03/19/817778984/what-some-people-are-doing-to-fill-the-social-distancing-space, accessed 3 January 2021
Allyn, Bobby. “Researchers: Nearly Half Of Accounts Tweeting About Coronavirus Are Likely Bots”, NPR, 20 May 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/05/20/859814085/researchers-nearly-half-of-accounts-tweeting-about-coronavirus-are-likely-bots, accessed 3 January 2021
“The State of Social Media in Canada 2020: A New Survey Report From The Ryerson Social Media Lab”, SocialMediaLab, 13 July 2020, https://socialmedialab.ca/2020/07/13/the-state-of-social-media-in-canada-2020-a-new-survey-report-from-the-ryerson-social-media-lab/, accessed 3 January 2021
Limaye, Rupali Jayant, et al. “Building trust while influencing online COVID-19 content in the social media world”, The Lancet, 21 April 2020, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landig/article/PIIS2589-7500(20)30084-4/fulltext, accessed 3 January 2021
Silva, Rik. “Picking Up the Pace: Healthcare’s Evolution to Social Media”, HIT Consultant, 1 June 2020, https://hitconsultant.net/2020/06/01/picking-up-the-pace-healthcares-evolution-to-social-media/#.X_JN8thKiUl, accessed 3 January 2021
Al-Dmour, Hani et al. “Influence of Social Media Platforms on Public Health Protection Against the COVID-19 Pandemic via the Mediating Effects of Public Health Awareness and Behavioral Changes: Integrated Model”, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19 August 2020, https://www.jmir.org/2020/8/e19996/, accessed 3 January 2021
Image Credit
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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