|Year : 2018 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 116-120
Social media in healthcare: Advantages and challenges perceived by patients at a teaching hospital in eastern province, Saudi Arabia
Mona Faisal Al-Qahtani1, Alaa Khalid Alsaffar2, Abrar Radhi Alshammasi2, Ghufran Sadeq Alsanni2, Zahra Tawfeq Alyousef2, Mishael Fahad Alhussaini2
1 Department of Public Health, College of Public Health, Imam AbdulRahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Health Information Management and Technology, College of Public Health, Imam AbdulRahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
|Date of Web Publication||1-Oct-2018|
Dr. Mona Faisal Al-Qahtani
Department of Public Health, College of Public Health, Imam AbdulRahman Bin Faisal University, P. O. Box 2435 Dammam 31441
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Aims: This study aimed to determine the types of, the frequency of, and reasons for social media usage by patients. In addition, this study attempts to explore patients' perceptions of the advantages and main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare. Subjects and Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. Questionnaires were distributed to a convenience sample of 400 patients at a teaching hospital in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The data were analyzed by performing descriptive and inferential statistics. Results: Of the 400 patients, 377 patients used social media. Females were more frequent users (60.7%) of social media than males (39.3%). Young patients were more frequent users of social media than older patients. Most patients used social media daily. The patients reported that the main purpose of their usage of social media was to care for their own health. The main advantage was to enable patients to learn about the symptoms of their illness and the method of treatment. A small percentage of patients believed that using social media in healthcare might breach the confidentiality and security of their information, which was the main challenge associated with using social media in healthcare. Conclusion: Social media is revolutionizing healthcare delivery, and its benefits overcome its drawbacks.
Keywords: Healthcare, patients, social media
|How to cite this article:|
Al-Qahtani MF, Alsaffar AK, Alshammasi AR, Alsanni GS, Alyousef ZT, Alhussaini MF. Social media in healthcare: Advantages and challenges perceived by patients at a teaching hospital in eastern province, Saudi Arabia. Saudi J Health Sci 2018;7:116-20
|How to cite this URL:|
Al-Qahtani MF, Alsaffar AK, Alshammasi AR, Alsanni GS, Alyousef ZT, Alhussaini MF. Social media in healthcare: Advantages and challenges perceived by patients at a teaching hospital in eastern province, Saudi Arabia. Saudi J Health Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 May 26];7:116-20. Available from: http://www.saudijhealthsci.org/text.asp?2018/7/2/116/242501
| Introduction|| |
Social media has been defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” According to McCay-Peet and Quan-Haase, social media are “web-based services that allow individuals, communities, and organizations to collaborate, connect, interact, and build community by enabling them to create, co-create, modifies, share, and engage with user-generated content that is easily accessible.” Different researchers have defined social media sites differently, but their definitions refer to the same meaningful function, i.e., social media refer to web-based or online applications based on the Internet used to create and share information, photos, and videos and to exchange ideas by users, enabling the users to interact with each other and establish online relationships., According to the International Medical Informatics Association's classification, 13 different types of social media platforms exist: social networks, professional networks, thematic networks, microblogs, blogs, wikis, forums or listserv, social photo and video sharing tools, collaborative filtering tools, multiuser virtual environments, social applications and games, integration of social media with health information technologies, and other (e.g., FriendFeed). The most commonly used applications include Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. Social media can be used in various sectors, such as the marketing, business, governmental, and healthcare sectors.
In the healthcare sector, social media help support patient-provider communication. Social media allow nurses to access information in real time; share research findings in research settings; share skills, knowledge, and education; and discuss medical issues. The main motivations for using social media in healthcare settings by healthcare providers, hospitals, physicians, and other health staff are as follows: marketing, communicating with patients and coworkers, disseminating health education, raising awareness, obtaining information regarding the most current medical studies, reducing medical-care costs, and improving the quality of care.,,, Several healthcare organizations use social media to deliver healthcare interventions to change patient behavior (e.g., help smokers change their lifestyle or decrease anxiety in women undergoing mammography). In addition, social media are used as online “virtual communities” in which a group of individuals who share similar interests meet “virtually” to discuss their experiences, exchange advice, provide emotional support and offer self-help suggestions. Moreover, social media are used to manage diseases and sustain health goals, such as losing weight, living with back pain, or coping with disease.,
Previous studies have highlighted the main advantages of using social media in healthcare, such as increasing interactions among patients; expanding, sharing and tailoring information; enhancing communication between patients and physicians; increasing accessibility to health information; providing emotional and social support; enhancing professional development; potentially influencing health policy; and contributing to public health studies, services and surveillance.,, Despite these advantages, several challenges could limit users from using social media in healthcare. These challenges are related to the privacy and confidentiality of patient health information, professionalism, lack of time, risks of spreading inaccurate health-related information, and cultural issues that could influence the extent to which physicians are willing to communicate with their patients.,,,,,,
However, in Saudi Arabia, knowledge regarding the nature of social media usage by patients for health-related issues is limited. Therefore, the objectives of the current study are: (a) to determine the types of, the frequency of, and reasons for social media usage by patients and (b) to explore patients' perceptions of the advantages and main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare.
| Subjects and Methods|| |
A cross-sectional design was used in this study. A convenience sample of 400 patients was recruited from a teaching hospital in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The study was conducted between March 2017 and May 2017. A paper-based questionnaire was developed based on a literature review to meet the objectives of the current study. The questionnaire was validated by two experts in the field. The questionnaire consists of 15 questions related to the type and frequency of social media usage, the purpose/reasons for using social media, the advantages of using social media, and the main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare. In addition, demographic data including gender, age, and level of education were assessed.
Ethical approval and consent to participate
This cross-sectional study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB-2017-087-CPH) of Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia. All the participants provided written informed consent after being assured that the study information was classified and that participation was anonymous and voluntary.
The statistical package for social science (SPSS version 21, IBM, Chicago, Illinois, USA) was used. The mean and standard deviation were computed for descriptive continuous data, whereas the frequency and percentage were computed for the categorical data analysis. Microsoft Excel was used for the graphical presentation of the data.
| Results|| |
In total, 377 of the 400 patients (94%) indicated that they use social media. Of these 377 patients, 309 patients (82%) reported using social media for health-related issues. As shown in [Table 1], the percentage of female respondents was 61%, while male respondents constituted only 39% of the sample. In total, 37.1% of the patients were younger than 30 years, 33% of the patients were aged between 30 and 38 years, and 30.2% of the patients were older than 38 years. Nearly half the patients (49.3%) had a bachelor's degree, 33.4% of the patients had a high school degree, and only 7.2% of the patients had a higher education degree. Nearly all the participants (95%) used social media daily.
As shown in [Figure 1], the patients used one or more social media applications. However, the most frequently used social media application was Snapchat (46.2%), followed by Instagram (35.3%). Meanwhile, Facebook was used by only 20.7% of the patients.
As shown in [Figure 2], most patients (60.5%) used social media to increase their awareness of health-related issues, followed by self-education (45%). Nearly one-fourth of the patients used social media for communication, and only 9% of the patients used social media for marketing.
As shown in [Table 2], most respondents (72%) agreed that using social media is useful for achieving better health, and 49% of the participants agreed that using social media is useful for obtaining knowledge about healthcare. A high proportion of the respondents (71%) agreed that using social media enhanced their understanding of their own health conditions and helped them learn about their symptoms and treatment. Nearly two-thirds of the patients reported that using social media is useful for sharing experiences with other patients suffering from the same health condition. Most patients (74%) believed that social media applications have the potential to improve doctor-patient communication. However, only 44% of the respondents reported that “When communicating with my healthcare provider, he/she usually responds to me.” When the patients were asked about their opinion regarding whether a challenge in using social media in healthcare is the potential breach of confidentiality and the security of their information, only 19% agreed that they were concerned about this challenge.
|Table 2: Advantages and challenges associated with using social media in healthcare|
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| Discussion|| |
The objectives of the study were to determine the types of, the frequency of, and reasons for social media usage in healthcare. In addition, we aimed to explore the advantages and main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare from patients' perspectives. The study results showed that most participants used social media. The highest proportion of patients using social media in healthcare was younger than 30 years. This result is consistent with the findings reported by Özgüven and Mucan, who indicated that adult patients aged 18 to 31 were the most frequent users of social media for health-related issues.
The present study found that Snapchat and Instagram were more frequently used than other applications. This result is consistent with the findings reported by the Pew Research Center, who indicated that Snapchat and Instagram are especially popular among those ages 18 to 24.
The literature has shown that Facebook is an essential application for patients to obtain information about health conditions., In Saudi Arabia, recent statistics indicate that during the 3rd quarter of 2017, the most popular social media application was WhatsApp, with a 71% penetration rate in Saudi Arabia. Our result showed that WhatsApp and Facebook were used more frequently by only 30.8% and 20.7% of the patients, respectively. Our results contradict the Statista finding and the findings of the previous studies mentioned above.
Regarding the main reasons for using social media, the results of this study indicate that most patients use social media to increase their awareness of health-related issues and for self-education. Our finding is consistent with the finding reported by Antheunis et al., who found that increasing knowledge was the main purpose for patients who use certain social media applications.
The result of this study indicated that using social media has the potential to improve doctor-patient communication, improve the understanding of health-related issues, and enable the sharing of experiences with other patients, which were the main advantages of using social media in healthcare according to the patients' perceptions. These results were compatible with previous studies conducted by Jackson et al., and Cooper, who reported that using social media allows patients to connect with each other, share their experience about a specific disease, and obtain feedback about that disease.
Previous studies suggest that using social media in healthcare builds transparent doctor-patient relationships and enhances communication between the doctor and patient. Notably, although most patients in the current study believed that social media has the potential to improve doctor-patient communication, only 40% of the participants agreed that when communicating with their healthcare provider, their healthcare provider responded to them.
The results of this study indicated that a small percentage of patients believed that using social media in healthcare might breach confidentiality and the security of their information, which was the main challenge in using social media in healthcare. This result is consistent with the findings of a previous study that indicated that the most significant challenge in patients' social media use might be the reluctance of patients to discuss their experiences via social media sites due to security and privacy issues, which may form a barrier to using social media., Therefore, social media sites are recommended to ensure the privacy and security of their users.
| Conclusion|| |
Patients use more than one type of social media application. However, Snapchat showed the highest usage frequency among patients. The main advantages of using social media in healthcare, as perceived by patients, were the potential to improve doctor–patient communication, the understanding of health-related issues, and the ability to share experiences with other patients with a similar health condition.
The main limitation of this study is that it was conducted in only one major hospital in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, which may limit the generalizability of the results.
For future research directions, the following are recommended:
- Conducting similar studies in different hospitals among different groups, such as physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers
- Building virtual communities in social media applications that enable patients to share their experiences with other patients with the same disease
- Raising awareness about social media usage in healthcare
- Encouraging patients to communicate with physicians using social media by ensuring that their health information remains confidential.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2]
[Table 1], [Table 2]