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How Does the Utilization of Social Media Influence our Relationship with Telehealth? The Role of Social Media in Shaping Patient Engagement, Awareness, and Trust in Telehealth.

As the healthcare industry shifts towards a more virtual approach, social media is emerging as a key player in this transformation. Understanding the impact of social media on telehealth services and how they can collaborate to enhance patient engagement, raise awareness, and foster trust in telehealth services is crucial. This convergence between social media and telehealth has attracted significant attention as it has the potential to shape the course of healthcare operations. The intersection of social media and telehealth has drawn significant attention as they collaborate to influence our relationship with healthcare.

 With the recent rise in awareness of telehealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been utilizing or have shown interest in attending virtual care visits. In just one year, spending on telehealth services increased from $307 million in 2019 to almost $3.7 billion in 2020 due to heightened concerns about safeguarding people’s health (Telehealth Before and After COVID, 2023). According to a recent  McKinsey Consumer Health Insights Survey, 55 percent of patients reported higher satisfaction with telehealth services than in-person appointments. In addition, 15 percent of survey-takers said that they were interested in starting online services (Cordina et al., 2022)

Telehealth, on its own, is a broad term; but some of its most sought out services include live videoconferencing, remote monitoring, and secured e-messaging. These specific services have revolutionized healthcare by making it more in terms of convenience and accessibility. Telehealth encourages patients to take on a more active role in managing their health by promoting preventative measures through educational resources, information access, and self-monitoring tools. While telehealth has helped to propel patient engagement, healthcare organizations could take this involvement a step further through social media.

Social media has quickly expanded beyond a personal user database to more corporate user experiences in a short period. This even includes healthcare organizations trying their hands at these entertainment platforms. In a study done on Chinese Provincial Health Committees (PHCs), researchers found that engaging with residents and communicating health-related information on TikTok has helped to increase health literacy among the citizens of mainland China (Zhu et al., 2019). Certain aspects, like 60-second videos containing graphics or documentary-style content, contributed to higher views and audience engagement for posts containing lessons and important information on general health and diseases (Zhu et al., 2019)

Social media helps create interesting storylines of patient-centered interactions that people can relate to and understand. For example, according to HubSpot, 72 percent of social media users prefer receiving information via video rather than text (Alaimo, 2018). Social media’s personable and unique content appeals to the preferences and active participation of a growing number of patients interested in telehealth services. Not only this, but through organizational participation in social media, patients are provided a space where they can actively partake in community discussions, share personal experiences, and seek out information.

It is important to note, however, that telehealth is incomplete; it is still a new and developing distribution of health-related services. In 2022, the telehealth market size was valued at more than $71.9 billion. It is currently expected to grow at 12.9 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) from 2023 to 2032 due to rising demand for services related to remote patient monitoring (Faizullabhoy et al., 2023). Research suggests that heightened awareness about telehealth among patients and healthcare providers contributes significantly to its acceptance and integration into routine medical practice (Haleem et al., 2021).

Research suggests that heightened awareness about telehealth among patients and healthcare providers contributes significantly to its acceptance and integration into routine medical practice (Haleem et al., 2021).

For a healthcare organization to successfully raise awareness of its telehealth services, it must overcome the barriers to reach and access. Some people have not heard of or even considered using telehealth as a reliable service for care, like those living in rural areas. Due to 4 percent of rural hospitals closing between 2013 and 2020, residents have had to travel about 20 miles farther for common services like inpatient care (Why Health Care, 2023). With facilities being out of reach for patients in these areas, it can be difficult for them to receive the proper care they need. Through social media platforms, healthcare organizations can share vital health information, connect patients with providers, and overall promote more accessible care (How can Social, n.d.). By promoting the services that telehealth offers, healthcare organizations can grow awareness and engagement among their followers and the greater population they serve.

In a study investigating the impact of social media on health literacy, researchers found that the use of social media is best done by defining specific goals and using plain language to get the point across to large audiences (Roberts et al., 2017). Despite the challenges of social media quickly evolving independently of advances in practice and theory in health literacy, developing a plan of action for post content has been found to build goodwill by encouraging multi-level conversations between users. Social media can also build trust. Trust is a cornerstone of any successful healthcare relationship. By creating original content through different forms like infographics, videos, or live Q&A sessions, healthcare organizations can build a sense of trust among their audience through proper citation and answering individual questions (Buford, 2023). This direct interaction promotes a sense of accessibility, responsiveness, and personalized connection, which contributes significantly to building trust in telehealth services(Buford, 2023)

Throughout this essay, the idea of an online community has been a consistent theme. While healthcare is a business, it is also important to recognize that it is a community of care. When organizations present challenges of declining services, healthcare consultants must consider the community that the organization is serving. Doing so will help consultants understand what facilities need to do to understand and adapt to the needs of the community. Regarding telehealth, initial hesitations can be shattered through information sharing from the organization as well as among users who have previously used the service.

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