Social Media: Hubs of Healing

The power of social media was realized in full force during the recent Boston Marathon bombings. Emergency responders, the media and those on the streets of Boston, Watertown, and Cambridge demonstrated how social networking with a collaborative and concerted focus can be used with great success.

A Platform for Real-time Reaction

Immediately following the blast, cell phone lines were jammed and people in Boston found themselves unable to call loved ones to let them know their condition. It became quickly apparent that while unable to make a phone call, bystanders were still able to tweet and post messages to Facebook to let family and friends know that they were unharmed or in need of medical assistance.

As the turn of events shifted from the care of the suffering to the hunt for those responsible, social media became an important source for real-time information dissemination. The massive cooperative efforts among law enforcement, media and the public to find the truth were quite amazing. “Eyes on the street” footage from retail establishments and individual mobile devices sent to the FBI resulted in information gathering unlike any other event. Amazingly, pictures from each source captured time stamps and GPS locations of the suspects and brought the manhunt to a rapid escalation and ultimate close.

Social Healing and the Role of Media

In the world of healthcare, there are many benefits of social media that are just now becoming realized.  Although not as high profile as a terrorist attack, the benefits cannot be dismissed. The power of connecting those suffering with illnesses enables a communication platform to create greater education, insight, and emotional resolution. These "Hubs of Healing" have given sufferers the opportunity to share experiences not unlike live group sessions, but with a personal environment that each patient can access on their own time, in their own way, and at their own pace.  

Social networking sites such as PatientsLikeMe or OneHealth have enabled consumers to create communities of sharing for both patient and physician. The goal of these sites is not too different from the goals of social media: Create an open dialogue of real-time collaboration to speed up the pace of results. 

Creating community is one of the top goals for most companies using social media and rightly so since the design of social media was just that, to bring common communities together. 

Social media in healthcare will continue to shape our society in a variety of ways:

  • The Patient Voice – An open dialogue for patients to tell their stories or share their experiences, successes and even solutions. Peer-to-peer support creates a community of common needs for healing.

  • Information Provider – Social networks are a powerful source of relevant information and help de-mystify and educate those seeking information and support. They also help patients prepare in advance of physician consults. 

  • Physician Collaboration – Physicians connect with each other on sites such as Sermo to collaborate on the most recent research to help escalate progress in their fields. Research findings in medical journals announce breakthroughs, but social media enables the conversation to continue each day moving forward.

  • Patient to Physician Access – As social media acceptance grows, more and more patient to physician communication will evolve to benefit both patient and healthcare provider. Not only will this allow for more timely solutions, but will result in lower costs.

  • Speed to Market – In situations where information is critical to disseminate immediately such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks or even terrorist attacks, social media has played a key role in creating real time scale and extending geographic boundaries.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of the capabilities of social community development with some of the greatest benefits to be realized in the near future. 

A common need is all that is required to fuel social media. Whether it’s a dramatic event such as the Boston Marathon bombings or the continuous search for healing and support in communities with a common ailment, social media will continue to expand and benefit those in need.

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