Social media in the context of medicine is an interesting way to try and solve problems with innovative solutions. There are complications though, such as the interesting collision point of HIPAA and provider efficiency. If we are talking about one more message box that I need to check in the day, without eliminating other methodologies of communication, then there is going to be a point of saturation where I cannot take any additional methods of contact. Currently, physicians are faced with fax machines, internal messengers in the EHR, electronic prescription requests, phone calls from the hospital, and text messages from one another. Flexible solutions that can consolidate some of these options would have tremendous appeal. And, of course, all of this need to be done with security and privacy in mind.
The DIRECT standard pressed by the ONC is an interesting methodology which I think many of these messengers will begin to evolve around. Inherent to DIRECT is something called a HISP; a form of authentication and credentialing which ensures you are communicating with another provider and not Susie Smith down the street. Solutions where providers can sign up to facilitate patient transitions under a patient identifier and perform certain aspects of accountable care and home care electronically are ideal. In addition this platform needs to facilitate communication between providers. If the messenger is also DIRECT compliant, these types of messages could be carbon copied to the EHR so that it could be internalized for the medical record. We have to begin to think of things in terms of an economy of scale. If we do not, efficiency will be hard to come by and a few visits to a social media service for healthcare will result in lack of continued participation or interest.
Current forms of social media including Twitter and Facebook are all interesting and fun for communicating with friends and family, but these are things I only have time for on occasion. I think most providers would agree with me in this sentiment. Sometimes, these forms of social media are more disruptive than helpful when messages are taken out of context or when privacy isn’t taken into account. Combining a professional social aspect with efficiencies for direct care of patients will be a winner, but currently what we are seeing are applications that create more silos and disruption without canceling out more antiquated workflows that are still heavily relied upon in healthcare.