Electronic patient education and communications, such as email, text messaging, and social media, are on the rise in healthcare today. This article explores potential uses of technology to seek solutions in healthcare for such challenges as modifying behaviors related to chronic conditions, improving efficiency, and decreasing costs. A brief discussion highlights the role of technologies in healthcare informatics and considers two theoretical bases for technology implementation. Discussion focuses more extensively on the ability and advantages of electronic communication technology, such as e-mail, social media, text messaging, and electronic health records, to enhance patient-provider e-communications in nursing today. Effectiveness of ecommunication in healthcare is explored, including recent and emerging applications designed to improve patient-provider connections and review of current evidence supporting positive outcomes. The conclusion addresses the vision of nurses' place in the vanguard of these developments.
Citation: Weaver, B., Lindsay, B., Gitelman, B., (September 30, 2012) "Communication Technology and Social Media: Opportunities and Implications for Healthcare Systems" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 17, No. 3, Manuscript 3.
Key words: healthcare, electronic communication, email, text messaging, social media, social networks, Facebook®, Twitter®, EHR, nursing informatics, patient education, patient-provider communication, positive health outcomes, patient-centered care, compliance, healthcare cost-savings, disruptive innovation, diffusive innovation
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also known as the "Stimulus Package") provided incentives, such as extra Medicare and Medicaid payments and direct federal loans and grants for hospitals to adopt health information technology (Department of Health and Human Services. 20121 . Despite these incentives, as well as research supporting the efficacy of electronic communication with patients, many clinicians have not yet had opportunity to put electronic outreach to work in delivering patient-centered care. Nurses, however, are uniquely positioned to change that by using ecommunication technology to create and sustain patient-provider connections that improve outcomes.
The time has come for nurses to seize this opportunity. With the emerging push to have more services and care provided outside of hospitals and to manage populations of patients-both part of the movement toward the Patient-Centered Medical Home-nurses are likely to be enlisted as the connectors to this new out-of-hospital care model. Nurses will be tasked with managing patient connections while supporting quality and efficiency. Electronic communication technology will be a critical factor in enabling nurses to accomplish this goal.
There's no doubt that we live in an increasingly electronic world, but the latest numbers from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project make it clear:
* 85% of Americans are online (Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 2012b, para. 1).
* 55% of US adults go online wirelessly (Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 2012c, para. 1).
* Small screens outnumber big screens: Almost half of US adults own a smartphone (Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 2012a, para. 1).
* 17% of US adult cell phone owners use their phones to look up health or medical information (Purcell, 2012, Slide 22).
Statistics from the past year tell us that we are rapidly moving toward mobile devices. For example, the percentage of U.S. adults who own a smartphone increased 11% between May 2011 and February 2012 (Pew Internet and American Life Project. 2012aV To a greater extent than ever before, communicating electronically and on the go is how people connect.
Methods of communication are also changing. …