Direct communication in health care can take place via forms of social media such as Skype, zoom and video conferencing. Traditional forms of communication such as telephone, notes and letters can continue to be used for information sharing between health providers and patients. For example, doctors and patients can text and send messages to one another. It is imperative that social media messaging be used to reduce the time taken to obtain knowledge on patient condition and general wellbeing.
The use of social media communication tools should not make indirect communication obsolete. In instances of technology resistance and lack of access to social media, health providers will be required to communicate face to face with patients and their relatives. Sometimes it may be easier and faster to communicate with patients via other media such as third parties. Doctors and patients can communicate via third parties such as nurses, personal caregivers, family and relatives of patients who may be unable to communicate. In other instances, it may be advantageous for family or caregivers to inform patients of their condition. A spouse or parent may be empathetic in conveying negative news to patients.
As a small island developing nation, Trinidad and Tobago faces serious health challenges that can be minimized by appropriate investment in social media technology. The major challenges include shortage of ambulances, bed shortages, and acute shortage of highly specialized medical knowledge and practice. Three additional acute problems are hospital overcrowding, limited availability of biomedical technology and drug shortages. These problems are exacerbated by traffic congestion that results from poor road infrastructure. Health and infrastructural challenges often combine to impact the quality of healthcare for patients with limited access to health facilities negatively.
This paper proposes that the quality of patient care for less critically ill patients can be enhanced by the adoption of social media tools that will enable doctors and other health providers to see and hear their patients in remote sites such as specialized care facilities and patient residences. The main intention of social media usage is to reduce overcrowding, improve access to healthcare, promote effective pain management and reduce patient death or mortality. Many patients can be released from hospital and be cared for at convalescent and private homes where providers can monitor and evaluate their progress via Skype, video conferencing, zoom or other appropriate technology.
The state can promote technological advancement and innovation to make social media tools widely accessible, highly reliable and very efficient. Investment in innovation should lead to the introduction of local media technology that can enhance the phenomenon of multiple users at the same time. For instance, doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other health providers should be able to interface simultaneously in order to ensure patients receive the best care. The doctor will maintain the primary provider role but should be able to take advice from other providers who may spend more communication time with patients. Finally after health providers have attained a position of consensus on the way forward, patients and their relatives can be brought in to ensure that the agreed treatment plan is explained and understood. The patient will become the biggest beneficiary of a collaborative approach among health providers. He will receive faster, more efficient care from a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers.
Technology should enable patient surveillance in a virtual setting that should reduce the time and hazards of taking weak and incapacitated patients to a hospital or care facility. In addition, providers can give safe and efficient care to patients who are in remote locations. It also means that patients warded at hospital would benefit from more direct contact with health providers who would have more time to spend with them. One advantage that cannot be underscored is the learning that will accrue from evidence based practice. Health professionals can learn from one another and develop innovative collaborative approaches to healthcare. Patients will receive consistent instruction or advice from health professionals. Use of social media technology in health care will also enable patients to have sessions with health providers individually. The use of electronic health records will enhance patient care tremendously. Health providers will be able to access patient information faster and easier thus reducing the time taken to care for patients.
Technological advancement must be accompanied by cultural change. The biggest change, technology acceptance, should ensure that resistance to technology is reduced. Change must bring about significant gains in patient education in order that they become more responsible for their overall health. Patient empowerment programs must be implemented to provide greater patient self efficacy. In other words, patients must be able to diagnose partially, monitor and evaluate changes in their physical and mental health. They must be able to detect significant health changes and be able to relate them to factors such as diet, changes in their physical environment and general increases in emotional, mental and psychological stress. The overarching goal is to enable doctors to make faster, more accurate, diagnoses of patient health problems.
This paper recognizes the limitation of social media technology such as technological failure or malfunction,. However, this challenge can be overcome by putting the required personnel in place to respond quickly to it. More importantly, this paper purports that systemic problems such as bed and ambulance shortages will be reduced significantly by the use of social media technology to care for patients who do not require hospitalization or critical care.
In many countries patients complain about long wait times in hospitals. This paper suggests that the use of social media tools can improve the quality of healthcare, save time and lives. They can promote a collaborative approach among different health providers that will benefit patients and promote greater efficiency in the health system.