Health care providers perspectives on social media in professional practice

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


Communication technology evolution including social media (SMT) is creating challenges and opportunities in health care delivery, the impact of which is not fully understood in the health care arena. While consumer utilization studies are ongoing, a paucity of published literature exists to study health care provider's perceptions of the significance of these changes. The purpose of this research was to quantify health care provider's familiarity, utilization of SMT, and perceptions of benefits and barriers to use in professional practice. This was a non-experimental descriptive phenomenological study. The study population (n=310) included health care providers (M.D., D..O., ND, NP, PA) employed with a regional, Western health care system. This study was conducted using a concurrent, mixed-methods approach. A validated survey, developed using Pender's Health Promotion Model, was distributed to the target population by the organization's Nursing Research Council (NRC). Response rate was 20% with an age range of 27-70 years. Gender included females (50.8%) and males (49.2%). Tenure in practice included < 5 years (16.9%), 5-10 years (15.3%), 10-20 years (30.5%), and 20 + years (37.3%). Respondents were primarily M.Ds (62.7%), followed by D.O. (1.7%), N.D. (1.7%), NPs (16.9%), and PAs (16.9%). Familiarity with the term "social media" was 95% with personal account ownership (62.7%). Utilization of SMT in practice varied by application with 78.7% indicating no current use followed by health education (13.1%), practice promotion (6.6%), scheduling and appointment reminders by text (4.9%), interactive patient communities (4.9%), and patient self-management tools (1.6%). Smartphone utilization was 98.3% with 69.5% accessing health care applications. Sixty one percent perceived benefit of SMT in improving patient care, but 53% disagreed or strongly disagreed with benefit for clinical decision-making. Predominant barriers to SMT in practice included: uncertainty of legal implications, time commitment to monitor, and patient/provider confidentiality concerns. Power-users were younger, were 4 times more likely to utilize smartphones to access health care related applications, 3.4 times more interested in SMT benefits, and 3.5 times more likely to anticipate future SMT use in practice. SMT may be most useful as a complement to traditional delivery modalities.




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