Academic journal article Creative Nursing

Social Media in Health Care: Benefits, Concerns, and Guidelines for Use

Academic journal article Creative Nursing

Social Media in Health Care: Benefits, Concerns, and Guidelines for Use

Article excerpt

The use of social media and other electronic communication has exploded as the number of social media outlets and applications continue to increase. These are exciting and valuable tools when used wisely, but pose risks when inappropriately used. The purpose of this article is to consider what comprises social media, its benefits and concerns, and guidelines for use that protect patients, employees, and organizations.

Social media and other forms of electronic communication are exciting and valuable tools when used wisely, as demonstrated by the communication among the public, health care workers, and patients during the recent Boston Marathon bombing. Because social media is largely technology-driven and given to buzzwords, the terminology used to describe it can be confusing. The following terms and definitions will help us to understand its value.

Social technologies refer to any technology that facilitates social interactions and is enabled by a communications capability, such as the Internet or a mobile device. Examples are social software (e.g., wikis, blogs, and social networks) and communication capabilities (e.g., web conferencing) that are targeted at and enable social interactions (Gartner, 2012).

Social media are broadly described as forms of electronic communication (e.g., websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content such as videos (Merriam-Webster, 2012).

Social networking refers to systems that allow members of a specific site to learn about other members' skills, talents, knowledge, or preferences. Commercial examples include Facebook and LinkedIn. Some companies use these systems internally to help identify experts (Gartner, 2012).

Other social technology terms include the following in alphabetical order:

Blogs (short for web logs) are websites designed to facilitate users' entries in chronological order. The entries are then displayed in reverse chronological order and are usually archived on a periodic basis. Blogs are mostly used to express opinions on topical events such as sports or politics, but in the past few years they have emerged as established communication channels for businesses as well as individuals. Blogs are often distributed to other sites or readers using Really Simple Syndication (RSS; Gartner, 2012).

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a strategy allowing employees, business partners, and other users to employ personally selected and purchased client devices such as cell phones, tablets, and laptop computers to execute enterprise applications and access data (Gartner, 2012).

Collaborative/peer editing allows groups of people to edit the same document simultaneously. This can be done face-to-face or remotely using collaborative tools such as instant messaging (IM), breakout rooms, application sharing, and whiteboards. Collaborative editing can also be accomplished asynchronously via tools such as discussion boards, change-tracking, and e-mail. Collaborative/ peer editing assignments can include projects, papers, presentations, and wikis (Collaborative/Peer Editing, 2012).

Mashups are web-based aggregations of content from different online sources that leverage consumer-oriented sites to create a new service. Mashups rely partly on data and services from public websites, such as Google Maps, Craigslist, eBay,, and others. An example is a program that pulls job listings from one site and displays them on a Google map to show job locations (Gartner, 2012).

Microblogging is a form of multimedia blogging (such as Twitter) that allows users to send and publish brief text updates of up to 140 characters or micromedia such as photos or audio clips, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group chosen by the user. Authors and journalists can use microblogs to drive awareness of new posts, articles, announcements, and so forth (Gartner, 2012). …

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