The Role of Communication Technology and Social Media in the Modern Healthcare

Healthcare practice plays an indisputable role irrespective of the country or the jurisdiction. The primary aim of any health care system is to provide quality services for optimal patient outcome. In recent years, some strategies and applications have been discovered and applied to assist practitioners in delivering timely and patient-centered care. One of the tools identified to have significantly impacted healthcare is the application of communication technology and social media (Weaver, Lindsay & Gitelman, 2012). The communication technology, particularly the use of mobile phones, tablets, and connectivity platforms such as emails and social media, have proved to be transformative in healthcare and all the fields of human operations. The fundamental role of the new discoveries is to enhance communication due to improved speed, information sharing, and storage. Furthermore, the practitioners have become highly connected through the innovation, making it possible to undertake evidence-based practices.

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Irrespective of their location and time, the practitioners can make inquiries, share information about an incident, and receive supportive information from other practitioners in any part of the world. Besides, communication from within the organizations is facilitated, making it possible for an integrated service to be realized. For instance, upon the changes in shifts, the incoming nurse or doctor will get to know the progress made in treating the patient within the shortest time from the digital records (Weaver, Lindsay, & Gitelman, 2012). In case an inquiring is required, the practitioner who attended the patient can be consulted for clarity. Apart from the internal use, the technology can be used in facilitating referrals and supportive services. For instance, a referring health facility can call the referral one to pass information about the referred patient.

Despite the many benefits of the modern communication technology, the knowledge about its application have not been developed or widely shared. In other cases, some healthcare facilities and practitioners have remained reluctant to adopt their use. It is on this foundation that I intend to undertake research on the communication technology and social media.

The proposed research topic will be;

  • The role of communication technology and social media in the modern healthcare

In the attempt to unveil the findings on the subject, relevant research questions are critical in that one will be guided by the desire to look for specific information. Three questions will be used in this regard.

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  1. How are communication technology devices and social media used in modern healthcare services?

The question is important because it assists in the identification of the devices and platforms and how they are used. With the knowledge about the devices, the practitioners and the health facilities can acquire the devices and learn how to apply them appropriately.

  1. What are the factors facilitating the effective adoption of the modern communication technology in healthcare?

The question is immensely critical as far as the study is concerned. Finding information that successfully answers the question can assist healthcare managers, administrators, and practitioners in adopting the best practices.

  1. What are the barriers to the adoption of communication technology and social media platforms in medical practice?

Answers to this question will assist in the determination of the reasons that, despite the identified benefits, many hospitals and practitioners are still reluctant to implement communication technology in the healthcare sector.

Theoretical Framework

Social learning theory is highly applicable when it comes to the application of digital communication and social media. Fundamentally, the platforms are used to facilitate interaction among the participants. Therefore, sharing of information, ideas and experience take place effectively. Through the social learning theory, it is clear that the new technology brings together the community of practice facilitating interaction and participation. The members within the digital platform share their knowledge domain, practice, and identity. Eventually, professional development can be gained as individuals from different parts of the world, cultural and education backgrounds come together through the digital and social media forums. Consequently, evidence-based practice is highly enhanced as the practitioners get to learn from one another.

Literature Review

According to Rolls et al (2016), digital devices, the Internet, and the social media have transformed human communication significantly. The use of tablet technology, internet access, and mobile connectivity has increased since 2000. The communication has facilitated the use of electronic health records in healthcare facilities. As a result, the patient’s data and information are stored and maintained, facilitating effective retrieval and sharing among the practitioners. The digital platforms assist the professionals to communicate the progress made in patient care; hence, reducing errors such as missed medication and wrong treatment (Lindsay & Gitelman, 2012). Each of the patient’s details are coded and updated as required. In essence, the incoming practitioner as a result of transfer or change in shift picks from where the treatment progress had reached.

The practitioners are also in a position to communicate efficiently and timely among themselves to seek clarifications and assistance on certain patient cases. For instance, a newly employed nurse can request the assistance on how to handle a certain patient. The experienced practitioner can be reached through the mobile phones and social media platforms such as Whatsapp and Facebook. In other words, the digital gadgets facilitate continuation in the treatment process. Indeed, the patient-centered care and evidence-based care are facilitated through the digital communication.

     According to Weaver, Lindsay, and Gitelman (2012), digital communication platforms are playing a significant role in closing the gap in nursing training. The role in this regard is played in two ways. First, since just a fraction of medical practitioners mainly the nurses has acquired education to the doctorate and master’s levels, on-job training is hindered significantly. The nurses with the skills to train their colleagues while on jobs are just a few. Secondly, the training undergone by the practitioners differ from one training institution to the other. Some concepts are not covered in all the institutions depending on the capacity and training skills of the tutors. Therefore, the sharing of ideas and skills acquired by the practitioners would assist in the diffusion of concepts adequately covered in the colleges. The two gaps are actively bridged as the highly trained professionals share ideas to the junior professionals irrespective of the healthcare facilities they are associated with (Ventola, 2014). Therefore, a professional with expertise in certain areas can train thousands of practitioners as long as they are connected.

Apart from the connection between the physicians, the communication technology, and social media has facilitated the link between the patients and healthcare providers. Nurses can now interact with patients even when they are at home without having them to report to the hospitals. The nurses can enquire about the progress in the healing process. On the other end, the patient can also contact the practitioners to inform him/her on matters arising and seeking clarifications. The interaction, in this regard, assists in saving time for the nurse to attend to other patients who are need of urgent attention. The healthcare facilities can also send message to the patients reminding them of the next visit as well as wishing them a note of quick recovery and healthy living. In this case, the platforms can be used to create loyalty among the patients.

     According to Weaver, Lindsay, & Gitelman (2012), there are a number of communication technologies including e-mail, social media, and text messaging. E-mail is used to communicate written information between the patients and the physicians. The platform is highly applicable since a large number of patients, including the elderly and the young generation has active email addresses. The platform is considered effective since it is treated as an official communication and can be used in upholding privacy. Email is also preferred since it enables the patient to focus on the key questions or issue to be addressed. Furthermore, sending an email does not require the patient to be online at the time the message is sent; the platform has a database upon which both the read, unread, and sent messages can be retrieved. Nevertheless, the platform may not be appropriate when the issue at hand is on an emergency since the physician may not be online at the time of sending the message.

     The social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter are newly applied, which have revolutionized communication in healthcare (Ventola, 2014). The platforms are powerful since they connect individuals from all over the world as long as the internet is available. Therefore, it is a source of learning as the colleagues from different training backgrounds and experience share their points of view on various health issues. Hospitals post information on their social media platforms to provide their followers with healthcare and wellness update. As such, it assists in forging a close working relationship with the patients and caregivers as the clients to the hospitals. The medical practitioners’ associations such as American Nurses Association use the social media platforms to post educative health information to the followers.

The social media has also revolutionized research in nursing and medical practices. Researchers are increasingly using the platforms to gather data and information, which assist in investigation and knowledge development. In fact, social media is increasingly used in involving participants on various health issues such as obesity, smoking cessation, eating habits, among other health risk behaviors. The platforms bring on board a large pool of informatics that can be either part of the world; hence, it is a tool of research triangulation. The findings from approved research can also be posted in various healthcare pages; hence, the diffusion of the findings takes place effectively.

     Lastly, according to George et al. (2013), the social media and digital communication have assisted in facilitating disaster management in various ways, including medical services. Through the platforms, the agencies and well-wishers have been alert to bring forth their assistance when it is required. Individuals can also be urged to shun risky areas to avoid additional casualties or injuries. During an outbreak, the communication platforms are used to inform the population considered vulnerable on ways to remain safe. In other occasions, the social media appeals have been used to seek the assistance of potential organs and blood donors.

     Despite the many advantages of the use of social media platforms, there are some setbacks associated. First, the use of the platforms has raised significant issues as far the privacy and confidentiality in the health care is concerned. Since the platforms are newly introduced, privacy policies on their use have not been developed and made known to many physicians and medical students. Some practitioners have been in trouble for the use of the platform to post message and images whose exposure would be regarded as an unethical practice. Secondly, it is clear that false information can be linked to the social media platforms leading to negative perception and reactions that threaten the healthcare processes. Since it is not easy to authenticate the source of such information due to the complexity of the connections; hence, a sense of responsibility can be lost.

     It is clear that indeed, the use of communication technology in health care is valuable and rampant in the contemporary world. Nonetheless, its adoption remains relatively low in some hospitals and among some practitioners. However, three factors are likely to have led to a lower adoption of the technology. First, limitation in resources available to purchase devices such as computer and internet servers, tablets, and the rest have delayed some health facilities from adopting the new development (George et al., 2013). Secondly, resistance from the physicians and healthcare administers have delayed the implementation of the digital platform. In fact, a large number of the physicians were trained and deployed when modern communication technology and social media were not introduced. As a result, they are immensely reluctant to allow the technology to be implemented as they fear frustrations and sometimes losing relevance at the workplaces. Lastly, some healthcare administers are not aware of the importance, applications, and benefits of communication technology and social media, hence do not take steps to have them implemented.

Methodology

Research methodology is the main ingredient when it comes to a given study. The methodology adopted should be appropriate in collecting the data from the right informatics and in its right form and quality. Therefore, the research method should be on point on matters to do with research design, data collection method, and data analysis.

Research Design

Research can involve the collection of data and information from either primary or second sources or both. The primary data collection is applied when a researcher focus on collecting new data and information to address an issue (Mangal, 2013). The method assists in the gathering of data on the current status of the topic as guided by the research questions and objectives. The methods used in this category include surveys, observation, and experimentation. Secondly, research involves the collection of data from past studies about the topic. A literature review is a commonly used method in this regard. 

 A research design can also be defined based on the type of data collected. Research can either follow a quantitative or qualitative approach. Quantitative research involves the collection of data in statistical form, while qualitative research engages data in its theoretical form. The data method selected for the current study is quantitative (Mangal, 2013). The typical questionnaire sheet will have three sections, which include the background information such as gender and year of study, the second part will have six close-ended questions, while the last part will have two open-ended questions. The research will involve questionnaires in which the respondents will be required to respond to statements based on their best option from the five rated options. The responses will be rated and converted into numerical data. The respondents are expected to answer in either of five ways include strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, and strongly disagree allocated 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points respectively. The method is preferred because it facilitates objectivity and validity as the statistics can be verified from the responses. The design is also preferred because it assists in the collection of first-time data; hence, representing the current state of the research problem.

Target Population and Sampling

The target population constitutes of the total number of people who are the potential participants (Kuada, 2012). In this case, nursing students who are in their year 3 and 4 years are targeted for the study. However, the number of students is high and may not be easy to handle, only a section of them will be involved. Therefore, the research will involve 60 participants, which is considered as a reliable figure to provide quality and reliable data. The sampling method used for the study will be purposeful; the 3rd and 4th-year students. The students at these levels are likely to have undergone at least an attachment/internship program and acquire some practical experience on the application of communication technology and social media. The participants will be selected at random and as long as they are among the target population. The wetting will be within the college compound.

Data Collection Method and Data Collection Process

The questionnaires will be designed and tested for validity through peer review by colleagues to assist in the identification and removal of mistakes and inconsistency. A request will be made in writing seeking the authorization to carry out the research within the college (Kuada, 2012). The issue of the authorization letter is required to pave the way for the administration of the questionnaire. However, before a participant is issued with the survey sheet, he/she is briefed about the study and the purpose so that he/she can sign a consent form from an informed point of view. Finally, the participant is given the sheet to fill as directed.

Protection of Human Subjects

 The research will involve human subjects as the source of information and data. Therefore, it would be noble to have their rights protected to avoid any harm to their dignity (Mangal, 2013). As such, the steps necessary to this effect should be taken. First, every participant will be informed of the research and its purpose, while their roles explained. Based on the information, the participants will sign the consent form to declare that they participated out of own-will. Secondly, the privacy and confidentiality of the participant will be upheld. In this case, no participant will be required to reveal his or her identity in the questionnaires.

Data Analysis

The data collected should be analyzed effectively to compile the findings necessary to draw the conclusion. The data collected in the questionnaires will have two fold; the numerical data from the close-ended responses and theoretical data from the open-ended questions. The first step in the analysis will be the sorting out to eliminate the sheets whose participants did not fill in full, has some double responses, or where personal information/details has been included. The second step would be the analysis of the numerical data using statistic methods and in this regard the central tendency methods using the excel sheet software (Mangal, 2013). The data will be represented in tables and visual arts such as charts and graphs for better understanding. Lastly, the responses from the two open-ended statements will be analyzed using thematic approach. The responses will be read through, and the interesting points noted for each of the respondents. The common ideas are noted and considered in the formulation of the common theme.

Application in Nursing

The research is highly applicable in the nursing practice. It can assist hospital administration/lead nurses in identifying various communication technology and social media platform to incorporate in their communication plan. They would also acquire the knowledge on the barriers to the adoption of the new approaches and hence come up with strategies to eliminate them. Besides, the nurses would get to know the role the engagement through the platforms can play in enhancing their career development and evident-based approaches. The connection between the patients on one side and the nurses on the other hand would be enhanced, making it easier for the nurses to develop close interrelationship with the patients. Lastly, the research informs the nurses of the new, effective, and efficient platforms upon which they would collect data and information from a wider population. In other words, apart from the enhanced communication, the modern technology, and social media assist in knowledge development on matters of interest to nurses.

 

References

George, D. R., Rovniak, L. S., & Kraschnewski, J. L. (2013). Dangers and opportunities for social media in medicine. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 56(3). 1-10.

Kuada, J., E (2012). Research methodology: a project guide for university students. Frederiksberg, Samfundslitteratur.

Lindsay, B., & Gitelman, B. (2012). Communication technology and social media: opportunities and implications for healthcare systems. Online journal of issues in nursing, 17(3), 1-16.

Mangal, S. (2013). Research methodology in behavioral sciences. Rutgers Univ. Press.

Rolls, K., Hansen, M., Jackson, D., & Elliott, D. (2016). How Health Care Professionals Use Social Media to Create Virtual Communities: An Integrative Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 18(6), 166.

Ventola, C. L. (2014). Social Media and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices. Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 39(7), 491–520.

Weaver, B., Lindsay, B., & Gitelman, B., (2012). Communication Technology and Social Media: Opportunities and Implications for Healthcare Systems. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 17, No. 3, Manuscript 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendices

  1. The questionnaire

The questionnaire on the role of communication technology and social media in healthcare

 Part 1: Background Information

Age____________________________________

Year of Study____________________________

Gender___________________________________

Part 2: close ended questions

Statement Strongly agree agree Neutral disagree Strongly disagree
1.      Are  you a social media and communication technology user?          
2.      Have you ever used in your nursing studies or during the internship?          
3.      Social media and modern technology are significant in modern healthcare systems          
4.      There are privacy and ethical issues surrounding the use of social media          
5.      Social media is a significant source of knowledge and career development          
6.      Nurses have a direct role to play in the adoption of the technology in healthcare services          

 

Part 3: Open Ended Questions

  1. (a).What areas in healthcare are the communication technology and social media applied?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. (b). what are the examples of the socials media and communication technology you know or have used?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. What are the barriers to the adoption of communication technology and social media in some healthcare setup.
  2. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. The Consent Form

I _____________________________, ascend my signature below to demonstrate that in have been informed of the research I am to participate in. All the necessary information including my privacy and confidentiality of the information that I will provide has been fulfilled. Based on the information and assurance, I therefore decide to participate in the research voluntarily.

Signature___________________

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