Online presence for doctors has become mandatory in the recent times. Since the days of Hippocrates, the medical profession has been characterized by a good code of conduct; a somewhat unspoken and unwritten rule that requires one to conduct their vocation outside the belligerence of modern-day self-advertisement and media influence. Whereas this moral and ethical way of decorum is still held in the highest regard, the need to evolve with changing times is paramount. The constancy and inevitability of change necessitate an equally dynamic evolution in the way things are done in the medical field. With the birth of social media tools at the dawn of the new millennium, and the immense capacity to influence and inform that has accompanied it; medical professionals have quickly joined the fray. Those who have embraced the new trends have thrived.
The worldwide web is a conglomerate of tons of data and information that has made self-driven education a unique avenue for doctors to enhance their knowledge and skills. Many training courses have become fully online modules making the possibility of ‘classroom’ attendance from anywhere on earth a reality. Up until the late 1980s and early 1990s, medical research materials such as medical journal papers required the publication by the printing press and subsequent dissemination to interested parties to access the most up-to-date information in your respective field of specialization. The online cataloging of medical research work into database websites like PubMed and Elsevier has broken these historical barriers making the latest, cutting-edge research accessible by a few clicks on your computer or a smartphone. This has been a game-changer, and it is no secret that the current generation of doctors is the most informed since time immemorial.
The empowerment of physicians has not been a sole event in a vacuum. The average patient today is well-informed, with multiple sites online that provide patients with concise information devoid of the technical jargon and mumbo-jumbo that characterizes in-house doctor communications. The first response on getting ill has evolved from seeking a consultation from a qualified doctor to finding one from ‘Dr. Google’. Patients can google and learn about their symptoms, gather information about a possible diagnosis, review healthcare practitioners who can assist them and set up appointments. Patient forums have also emerged allowing people to share their experiences, explore various treatment options, and provide moral support and share into each other’s burdens as concerns, disease, and disability. Multiple support groups and societies have an online presence and have played a massive role to alleviate the untold suffering that comes with various illnesses. Consequently, an online presence for doctors in this new age is mandatory to take adequate care of your empowered patients.
The eye cannot see what the brain does not know. Anecdotally, a patient cannot find a doctor without an online presence. The statement may not hold water in its literal sense but hear me out on this one. The most popular social media site Facebook has about 1.65 billion active users against an estimated world population of 7.4 billion. Why is this important? A staggering 22% of the world’s population can be accessed online! Doctors with an online presence, called online doctors can thus tap into this avenue, allowing doctor-patient interactions with instant feedback and patient education on health matters. To have a website for doctors has become a mandatory thing. Moreover, patients from different parts of the world can access services from the doctors’ worldwide, transcending geographical barriers which have hitherto been a major obstacle.
Professional networking and partnerships
The primary goal of the medical profession is to create a better world and attenuate the yoke of disease and infirmity borne by we who draw breath. To achieve this, we require teamwork, strategic partnerships, and cooperation among the key players involved. Platforms like LinkedIn are frontrunners in this capacity, connecting various medical professionals and allowing the formation of multiple professional networks. The benefit of this not only trickles down to the doctors but also to patients who can easily be referred to specialist doctors by their colleagues in professional networks. Notable collaborations about medical training have also been brought forth as a result of professional networking.
Public health and safety
Public health involves disease prevention, health promotion, and life prolongation through combined efforts of members of society. The reach and influence of the internet and social media makes it an indispensable tool in the realization of these goals. A myriad of public health programs has adopted a social media approach as their primary outreach means impacting countless lives. Doctors specializing in this field have been at the frontlines, inculcating healthy habits among societal members. The ease of information spread and access has made social media a tool for reporting and monitoring epidemics and pandemics; saving millions of lives that would otherwise be lost if we were still in the dark ages of information scarcity. A quintessential example of the effectiveness of an informed social media drive to curb the spread of epidemics is the public health and safety drive that followed the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa which had both local and international ramifications. Public health sensitization programs currently in motion include the Zika virus drive that has cautioned for the need for a prepared approach to combat the possible spread of the virus during the summer 2016 Olympics. Natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes are monitored by groups such as the red cross to determine the areas that are hit hardest and those that have the greatest needs regarding humanitarian assistance. Such approaches by health-care professionals have been instrumental in saving innumerable lives.
Health policy formulation and health advocacy
Health advocacy incorporates activities that promote health, protects the rights of patients and safeguards community health. Health policy and advocacy are intricately intertwined, and none is mutually exclusive of the other. Doctors being the trailblazers in this field, have taken up the leadership mantle to drive reforms and health policy via social media campaigns. This has led to the development of more inclusive and protective health systems, bettering the position of the community in health matters.
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