The digital era is here, and it’s impacting our lives immensely. Today, I want to show why it’s time to make the most of this digital era to make informed health choices.
First and foremost, the digital space has brought people, communities closer than it was ever before—much to the level of some health experts leveraging on it to promote healthcare.
This also comes at a time when we are seeing a lot of misleading health information circulating on social media, moreover from questionable sources. Luckily, healthcare workers are on the frontline to fight this. The last time I checked there was this: www.saratani.info, where a group of radiotherapists have vowed to spread the right information about cancer through cross-sharing platformWhatsApp.
That’s only a single case of how healthcare is going digital. Each day, I come across lots of health related information on Facebook, twitter and other social networks.
A study done by a US-based mediabistro, found that over 40 per cent of patients agree that information found through social media influences their health choices. We are yet to see such a study done in Tanzania, where millions of people are known to use social media.
The increasing social media audience can be used in health campaigns against things such as cigarette smoking, encouraging the public to go for screening and spreading health warnings.
In the past, running such campaigns meant fueling vehicles and going around the streets, making announcements to sensitise people to go for screening.
But as health professionals share information among themselves on social media groups, it comes with challenges.
My worry is on the risks associated with this. I see a possibility of cases where patients’ privacy might be breached. Already, I am aware of such cases here in Tanzania where healthcare workers, unknowingly or knowingly shared clients’ information in social media.
If we want to maximise healthcare delivery, it’s now time we looked into how to mitigate the risks associated with it. Such matters may damage the healthcare profession altogether.
But also, there is need for the healthcare professionals to scrutinise what they share and how it might influence the end users. I know social media users who make self-diagnosis of the illnesses they don’t know and self-medicate.
For the end users, it’s key that you seek professional advice apart from the useful information you get on social media.