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Social media is a global phenomenon transforming the way people consume information, research, and news. In the United States, 196 million people used multiple social media platforms in 2016 and a forecasted 216 million will join by 2021. Included in these populations are healthcare professionals utilizing social networking and publishing tools to share their knowledge. On the opposite end are millennials looking for on-demand healthcare advice and treatment. 

With doctors and nurses making this information readily available, social media is quickly revolutionizing healthcare. According to ReferralMD, “More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.” 

Here’s a close look at how social media is changing the way people perceive, consume, and internalize healthcare. 

Millennials Favor Social Media over Doctor’s Visits 

While people of all ages are scrolling through and consuming social media, millennials are especially taking advantage. Forbes reports 60% of doctors use social media as an avenue to deliver better healthcare to patients. With so many doctors blogging and sharing their expertise on easily accessible platforms, millennials can simply research their symptoms and make an educated decision on making a doctor’s appointment. ReferralMD claims that 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years old said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks. Being able to receive free healthcare advice without having to leave the convenience of your home is highly favorable to the younger generation. Removing the physician aspect, social media has become a place for peers to share their own personal experience with an illness or alignment. Receiving advice from consumers who’ve dealt with your same symptoms can often provide comfort and eliminate the urge to visit the doctor. People can also seek advice on these types of forums for lifestyle changes that impact their current healthcare problems. According to Forbes, 41% of people have indicated that information they get from social media impacts their healthcare decisions. Lastly, millennials are favoring urgent care facilities over visiting their regular care physician. Urgent care puts forward transparent costs on their website and lets patients schedule appointments online. 

Physicians use Social Media as a Research Engine 

With newly developing diseases, doctors are taking full advantage of social media as a medium to reach out to specialists. Forbes writes “82% of physicians and other healthcare providers use social media and the internet to research medical devices, pharmaceutical information, and biotech data.” Although physicians are the thought leaders of the healthcare industry, technology is forever changing, and to keep up to date, doctors are embracing specialists and other expert opinions. Doctor’s are also exploring the research of peers in their field to be on the cutting edge of possible treatment options and breakthroughs for their patients. Another great research tool housed within social media is tracking influenza outbreaks. With public health being a main concern in the United States, social media could be used as a data mining source. With this knowledge, healthcare professionals can readily act on this information by protecting and warning patients of an illness outbreak. Research from ReferralMD reports 60% of social media users are the most likely to trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group. In other words, if a doctor is forecasting an influenza outbreak in your area and suggests ways to avoid contamination, most consumers will abide by his/her recommendations. The communication capabilities on social media are being used to educate, inform, and ultimately, keep people healthy. 

Healthcare Organizations Use Social Media for Self-Promotion 

The rate of social media adoption to consumers and businesses is forecasted to continually increase. With a constantly growing population, healthcare organizations need to stand out in order to maintain a practice. Clinics are seeking an authentic voice, a way to build relationships with patients and healthcare professionals through the connecting power of social media. With 196 million social media users, physicians understand social media as a way to advertise services. Organizations can promote their recent research, educate consumers, advertise specialties and service, client testimonials, etc. Being that a large portion of Americans use the internet for healthcare research, it is vital to the livelihood of a healthcare organization to promote their services via social media and other mediums. Taking advantage of the connection aspect of social media, patients and doctors can connect virtually, giving the consumer the ultimate convivence. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, “approximately 60% of physicians were found to favor interacting with patients through social media for the purpose of providing patient education and health monitoring, and for encouraging behavioral changes and drug adherence.” Whether it’s a simple question or requesting a prescription refill, establishing that relationship online, will keep the patient loyal to the organization. The two-way discussion pathway is bond established with the development of social media and won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

The technological advancements social media has enabled for patients and consumers is revolutionizing global healthcare. Opening the door for further discussion, educating patients and consumers, and further developing research, social media will only continue to benefit the healthcare industry. 



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