How Social Media Plays a Role in Cancer Care
Social media has become a part of everyday life for the majority of the world, including cancer professionals and patients. With these communications resources right at our fingertips, it’s easier now more than ever to use social media as a tool for cancer networking, research, intervention, prevention and education. But it’s also important to know social media best practices for health professionals, such as protecting patient information and following trusted sources.
Here’s what six Cancer Center members had to say about social media use for cancer care and research purposes:
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SOCIAL MEDIA FOR CANCER CARE AND RESEARCH?
“With social media, you can hit a wider range of people. Then that dissemination can keep going on and on and on, because of the multiple platforms people use and share information on. This can be a key way of disseminating risk-reducing information — helping patients and multiple generations of family members become more aware of what they can do to reduce their risk of developing cancer and then together they can decide to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors that are key to reducing cancer risk. The net that you could cast by using social media is much wider. When scientists and the community partner to disseminate evidence-based information, social media can be an impactful way of getting the information out there, increasing awareness and knowledge, sparking conversations, and motivating people to engage in healthy behavior.”
“I think, right now, the easiest and most common way for social media to be used is in engaging with patient groups, bringing their attention to the opportunities for participation in research. It also works as a really great messaging system so that you can push information or content to patients as part of clinical research.”
“Social media can be a great resource for patients and cancer researchers for timely information related to cancer. The other potential benefit is the ability to share information about clinical trials. Through social media, cancer researchers may reach more people and let them know about clinical trials. We know that people who enroll in clinical trials for cancer tend to have better outcomes than those who don’t participate in trials, so the more we can enroll patients on clinical trials, the better for our patients and the more easily we can accelerate science in finding treatments for cancer.”
WHY SHOULD CANCER PHYSICIANS AND RESEARCHERS BE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
“As researchers, I think our job is to figure out better ways to make online trusted sources for health information.”
“Social media is kind of a great equalizer. It’s an opportunity for all voices to be heard, and so the absence of our profession in that space creates a void. I think that if we really expect the internet and social media to be all things for everyone, then everyone needs to participate in it. Everyone needs to be there in order to help provide balanced information and to make sure that, if there is misinformation that’s out there, that there are those of us who know the real information and can share that. I think it helps to make the platform a little bit more credible when you have all voices represented so it’s not just an echo chamber.”
“Social media gives oncologists and cancer researchers a place to connect with each other that they may not normally have. Social media makes the world a smaller place. Social media has helped to bring the community of cancer researchers and health care professionals together. It has really made our community a smaller community.”
HOW DOES SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECT CANCER RESEARCH, PREVENTION, INTERVENTION AND EDUCATION?
“There are studies that show how people rely on the internet for health information, and specifically cancer information. It’s definitely become a valuable resource. At the same time, there is a lot of incorrect information as well. Information online could be really helpful, but there definitely needs to be more of an effort to correct misinformation and provide helpful information from trusted sources.”
“Social media is always part of a bigger intervention. Social media is normally used as a supplement to other intervention delivery methods.”
“I just think social media has really tremendous promise for making clinical research a lot more available to more people and making the results of clinical research more relevant to more people. The more patients that are involved, the more diversity there is, the more relevant the results will be to everyone at the end of the study.”
“I think social media has accelerated the pace of information to patients and to clinicians in a way that is probably mind boggling to both, so it does require concerted effort on the part of the physician and the patient to really filter through what’s valuable information, what can be believed and what information is from a trustworthy source.”
WHAT ARE THE SOCIAL MEDIA BEST PRACTICES FOR CANCER PROFESSIONALS?
“Be kind, never share anything that could violate patient privacy, and do not share anything without thinking about it perhaps three or four times – remember that anything you post on social media is there forever. Most institutions have social media policies, and it’s important to follow them.There are also social media policies put out by the American Medical Association and American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). ASCO has a great resource available on best practices for physicians, patients and patient advocates.”
“Getting involved in social media can be overwhelming or intimidating to many oncology clinicians, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Merry Jennifer Markham, M.D., FACP, FASCO
Social Media Best Practices Resources
- ASCO Social Media 101 for Cancer Care Providers
- ASTRO Social Media Best Practices
- Practical Guidance: The Use of Social Media in Oncology Practice
- Integrating Social Media in Modern Oncology Practice and Research
- ASCO Ten Tips for Use of Social Media
UF Health Shands and UF Health Social Media Policies
Please take time to read and review the appropriate policy for your workplace. They are intended to help protect the privacy, confidentiality and interests of patients, employees, faculty and students. The policies also help protect you and UF Health from any negative consequences resulting from inappropriate social media usage.
Please keep the following suggestions in mind when engaging on social media channels — they are supported by UF Health Shands HR and core policies, the UF Health Code of Conduct and UF HR policy:
- Limit the personal and professional information you share.
- Avoid engaging with negative coverage or comments.
- It’s encouraged toshare official UF Health posts, events and stories that are factual in nature.
- Don’t engage with competitors in an inappropriate way by disclosing propriety business information, confidential data, legal matters, etc.
- You can express your own opinion, but make sure it’s very clear you’re not commenting on behalf of the organization. Consider adding “all opinions expressed are my own” on your profile.
- Refrain from posting photos or other images of medical records, X-rays, etc. These types of images should not be shared even if an image appears to be free of Protected Health Information, or PHI. A patient’s privacy must be maintained at all times.
Social media can be a powerful force, so remember to engage respectfully.
Other policies to review: