Rx for Rural Recoveries: Patient Social Media Plans

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Before a release from the hospital, it’s common practice for the social worker to meet with patients and caregivers to make sure they have access to care and equipment that will be needed to continue recovery at home – maybe a walker or at-home physical therapy sessions.

What if, upon leaving the hospital, social workers also provided patients with a social media plan? Maybe a list of credible Websites that can provide additional information on their treatment, or a Facebook group of others who are also recuperating from the same procedure, or a hashtag for a Twitter conversation as resource about the medication they were prescribed?

If this sounds far-fetched, a recently published paper provides a strong argument for the value of a social media plan for patients, especially those who live in rural areas.

Unique challenges in rural areas

People in rural communities face unique challenges when it comes to access to quality care, social support systems, specialty care, and educational programs. Educating Advanced Practice Nurses in Using Social Media in Rural Health Care explores the outcomes of an educational workshop that introduced social media as a tool to address issues inherent in the delivery of rural healthcare to nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists.

According to the authors, “The students explore innovative approaches for utilizing social media for patient and caregiver support as well as identify online resources that assist providers in a rural setting.”

Through projects, the workshop’s participants developed innovative ways to integrate social media to improve patient care, including a Hepatitis C therapy blog, a Facebook sibling support group and a plan for using Twitter as a patient information source.

Barriers to social media adoption

In the paper, the authors outlined barriers to social media adoption: availability of technology, knowledge and skills of patient/caregiver, obtaining support of providers and staff, confidentiality and selecting reputable sites (an issue I’ve addressed previously).

However, even after exploring the barriers and limitations, the authors concluded, “Social media have a vital role in improving the access and quality of care to rural and underserved individuals.  It can provide patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers with opportunities for education, social support, and collaboration.  In addition, it can aid practices in marketing endeavors.  In order for the use of social media to be optimized, healthcare providers should be educated on its potential uses.”

Recognizing the great value for patients, but also recognizing the precious resource that care providers often lack–time­–the authors of the paper are currently developing a “social media careplan” format that can be used to streamline the integration of social media.

Because of the authors’ practical knowledge, this paper is a good discussion-starter for hospitals wanting to better serve rural patients or any hospital considering innovative ways to improve patient care.

How we help

Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals develop an effective social media strategy and mentor them through the implementation process. Read about our services. Start a conversation. Email us or call us at 503-472-5512.

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