Many modern trends in health care are associated with technological progress. Two examples are exchanging health information and using personal health records. In both areas, researchers observe serious challenges, but also propose possible solutions.
The present-day development of technology opens new perspectives for the exchange of information among health care organizations. The importance of such an exchange is that a patient receives better, more thorough health care services. Nurse practitioners and physicians mostly use health information exchange (HIE) to retrieve data on recent hospitalization and doctor visits (Unertl, Johnson, & Lorenzi, 2012). Although health care providers reported that they “used HIE to improve continuity of patient care” (Unertl et al., 2012, p. 392), they also stressed the importance of trust between patients and providers in such exchange. The main challenge of HIE is substantial differences in the workflow of different organizations. It is suggested by Unertl et al. (2012) that more understanding of users’ perspectives on HIE technology is required for the further successful development of HIE practices.
Another modern technology-related issue in health care is personal health records. Various electronic health record (EHR) systems are developed and implemented across the world. Their main concern is security. Fernández-Alemán, Señor, Lozoya, and Toval (2013) conduct a literature review on the issue and mention several important trends in the area of EHR systems. For example, it is debated who should authorize access to electronic personal health information, patients, or health organizations. It is also suggested that medical staff members should receive training in EHR security and privacy. The authors conclude that there is a need for more work in the area of adoption of appropriate regulations and the deployment of secure EHR systems.
Twitter and Health Care
The development of communication is a crucial factor in the modern world. New types of media are used in almost every professional area, bringing modifications and new dimensions to these professions. One of the examples is the use of Twitter in health care.
Twitter is a social networking service that allows posting short (not more than 140 characters) messages called “tweets.” A user’s tweets appear in the feed of his or her “followers,” while the user can also follow other users, i.e. have their tweets appear in the feed. Tweets can be accompanied by emoticons, pictures, videos, links, or polls. Twitter is one of the most popular social networking services in the world. It is an example of the many-to-many model of communication (unlike one-to-one or one-to-many models). Twitter is a new medium that is not only used for entertainment, but also for social and cultural discussions that later affect the offline lives of societies.
The perspectives that Twitter and other social networking services open for health care have been studied in various researches. Moorhead et al. (2013) state that Twitter is the third most popular social medium used for healthcare-related issues (after Facebook and Blogs). Among such issues, most discussed on Twitter in 2013 were sexual health, diabetes, swine flu, and mental health. Besides sharing health care information, Twitter is reported to be used for patient-physician consultations, organization of health care events, education for future health care practitioners, etc.
The very concept and structure of Twitter provide opportunities for broad discussions with many parties equally involved. The challenge of Twitter use in health care is that social networking services are not studied sufficiently nowadays, which obstructs the evaluation of their impact and efficacy. According to Grajales III, Sheps, Ho, Novak-Lauscher, and Eysenbach (2014), “the role of social media in the medical and health care sectors is far-reaching, and many questions in terms of governance, ethics, professionalism, privacy, confidentiality, and information quality remain unanswered” (p. 13). Although the application of Twitter to health care requires more academic studies, it is understood today that Twitter has a lot to offer to health care.
Fernández-Alemán, J. L., Señor, I. C., Lozoya, P. Á. O., & Toval, A. (2013). Security and privacy in electronic health records: A systematic literature review. Journal of biomedical informatics, 46(3), 541-562.
Grajales III, F. J., Sheps, S., Ho, K., Novak-Lauscher, H., & Eysenbach, G. (2014). Social media: A review and tutorial of applications in medicine and health care. Journal of medical Internet research, 16(2), 13–27.
Moorhead, S. A., Hazlett, D. E., Harrison, L., Carroll, J. K., Irwin, A., & Hoving, C. (2013). A new dimension of health care: Systematic review of the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(4), 85–99.
Unertl, K. M., Johnson, K. B., & Lorenzi, N. M. (2012). Health information exchange technology on the front lines of healthcare: workflow factors and patterns of use. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 19(3), 392-400.