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Healthcare and social media: lower costs and better outcomes?

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Matthew Moran
4 May 2011

One of the claims made most commonly about social media is that it lowers costs and improves outcomes for patients/service users. (Similar claims are often made for elearning.) HSC practitioners need access to information and research if they are to verify such claims. Currently, most of the available sources point to the benefits; this is one example, 'Healthcare performance management in the era of Twitter' from the Healthcare Performance Management Institute. It cites a number of case studies:

  • The Department of Veterans Affairs VistA healthcare system, which doctors used to communicate online to coordinate care for three million members. Use of VistA cut healthcare costs by 30 per cent per patient on average, by engaging patients in care regimens, by providing care in a timely manner, and thereby avoiding the cost of unnecessary tests and procedures.
  • Toms River School District in New Jersey, which opened an employee health clinic and saved an average of $1,950 per head in the first three months of operation.

'The bottom line is that when patient information is more tansparent, it enhances the delivery of healthcare, reduces costs and improves quality. The information is also valuable for measuring what forms of treatment work well and achieve the most successful outcomes.'

Of course, these claims reflect the interests of those who make them. HSC practitioners need to be aware of these claims and able to assess them using appropriate sources; and HSC students need to develop the critical skills necessary to evaluate the impact on services of social media.

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