Bana Jobe

Should Your Employees Use Social Media for Health Advice?

When they feel unwell, your employees are likely checking social media for health care advice before scheduling an appointment with their doctor. A whopping 8 in 10 internet users go online for health questions. With nearly 53 percent of physician practices running a Facebook page, much of that digital traffic ends up on social media in some form.

But is that really a bad thing? Aren’t there benefits of social media in health care, from convenience to cost? As an employer, it depends. Having unlimited information at your employees’ fingertips can help them make more informed decisions about their health care. However, so many things on the internet are flat-out wrong — especially since anyone can post nearly anything on social media.

So how can your employees tease the truth out from the confusion?

1. Prioritize Credible Sites Over the Junk

While user-run sites like Wikipedia sometimes have some great data, nonprofit and government resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) offer more consistently credible health information penned and reviewed by medical professionals.

That principle translates to social media when looking at the links that people and pages post. If a social page links to content from a suspicious-sounding place, think twice before taking that information as truth. But if a social page links to content from the CDC, ACS or any number of other legitimate health sites, it’s more likely to be accurate.

2. Share Trustworthy Content in the Workplace

As an employer, you should apply that same logic to the entire workplace. Scrutinize the health information the company shares on and offline — from social media posts and internal newsletters to break room posters.

Is that information properly sourced and accurate? If not, it may be time for an audit of your own internal communications. For example, you could:

  • Check government or nonprofit websites and social channels for reliable health information, and use those articles to populate a special health section in employee newsletters.
  • Post a weekly health tip on your company Facebook page using these tips from the CDC.
  • Retweet content from dependable Twitter accounts like the World Health Organization or the Mayo Clinic.
  • Download free printables from credible sites to post around the office, like these from the American Heart Association.

3. Emphasize the Difference Between Health Info and Medical Advice

No matter how credible it is, social media content should never take the place of a trained medical professional. That’s because appointments allow for two-way communication in a way that websites can’t. From an extensive review of a patient’s medical history to a thorough series of back-and-forth questions about symptoms, medications, progress and more, speaking to a live physician is the best way to receive medical guidance.

So encourage your employees to understand the true purpose of online content: to review educational information about health topics, not get medical advice. If someone has a question about a particular symptom, they should always call their doctor rather than doing an online search.

Of course, as health care providers catch on to digital trends, going online and talking to a doctor are increasingly becoming the same thing. The rise of telemedicine options like nurse hotlines and comprehensive 24/7 portals like Anthem’s LiveHealth Online means that your staff’s inclination toward using Google and social media for health care information could be an asset to their well-being. Such resources offer employees trusted health care overseen by trained medical experts while helping them access that care conveniently on their own time — especially important if they live far away from hospitals or have trouble finding room in their busy schedules to make appointments during office hours.

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Weeding out the junk from the science is no small task. Let these tips guide your hand as you search for reliable medical assistance for yourself and your employees.

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