By Greg McInerney, Editorial Assistant
There has been a lot of talk and debate regarding the utility of social media platforms for the health care industry. Its proponents point to it as an easier medium of communication between physicians and patients, providing a greater level of transparency and accessibility. Others see social media platforms as an inappropriate place for sensitive information, and question what tangible benefits they actually bring.
An interesting new venture from ProPublica, a non-profit news outfit, could prove to be a useful test case. The company, using Facebook, has created an environment for patients who have suffered from injury or infection while undergoing medical treatment and for others concerned about the problem of patient harm.
In the past, ProPublica has conducted previous health care reporting focused on gaps in nursing oversight, patient abuse and drug company/doctor payments. With this leap into the world of social media, the company is hoping to “build a community of people — patients as well as doctors, nurses, regulators and health-care executives and others — who are interested in discussing patient harm, its causes and solutions.”
ProPublica is counting on the personal nature of Facebook accounts to help reduce the level of anonymity that usually comes with online forums and to promote a more genuine interaction.
The Facebook page itself allows users to simply post a comment as they would to a friend on the social network site. Users can upload photos, though this feature appears to be less popular so far. Perhaps of most significance is the “Files” page section. It contains instruction for patients on where and how to lodge complaints about doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Even some health care providers are weighing in.
The page has already attracted more than 600 members with considerable participation visible. What remains to be seen however, is whether the page can attract the right mix of both patients and medical practitioners to ensure its effectiveness and longevity.