What is it about?

What is it about? Worldwide use of social media (SM) and medical applications (Apps) in healthcare delivery has increased steadily in recent years. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has also necessitated the rapid adoption of technology and its integration in healthcare delivery, providing many options for telemedicine. In the midst of such accelerated adoption and use of new technology the question arises, is the health work force ready for these changes? In turn, we asked the question: are the medical interns (future physicians) ready and willing to adopt the role of SM and medical Apps in delivering healthcare? To answer this question we conducted a mixed-methods cross-sectional study. The study targeted medical interns, at the end of their one-year internship training period, who were training in any of the five main administrative Saudi Arabia regions (Eastern, Western, Central, Northern and Southern regions). Qualitative data was collected via semi-structured interviews: focus group discussions (FGD) and key informant (KI) interviews. In addition, a self-administered online questionnaire was used. A total of 24 medical interns were interviewed, and 889 medical interns' survey data collected and analyzed. Our study explored the perspectives and practice of medical interns regarding the use of SM and medical Apps in healthcare delivery, and assessed the following aspects: interns’ use of SM and medical Apps, their general perceptions of the suitability of SM and Medical Apps in healthcare delivery at present and in the future, confidentiality and privacy aspects related to the use of these tools in the healthcare context, in addition to the effect of COVID-19 on their use of SM and medical Apps. Our findings show that medical interns’ use of SM and Medical Apps for medical education and patient care is increasing. Regarding SM, one medical intern said: “I am using Twitter more for my medical education when I follow medical journals and societies". Similarly, another medical intern, considering medical Apps, said: “I search in them easier than the books, it gives me the best answer in the least time". Overall, interns have a positive attitude toward the role SM and medical Apps can play in healthcare delivery; nevertheless, they were uncertain about related ethical and privacy issues and expressed differing views “SM usually has advice, so I don’t think there is a problem with that, and in medical applications I think the level of confidentiality is high because only those who are in the medical field view it”. However, other interns do not support this view, explaining: “... even when the patient agrees, I don’t think it’s okay to publish (share the patients’ data). If it is very interesting and you want to share, I think the best thing is to go with the traditional methods (such as) case reports…”.

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Why is it important?

Why is it important? It is very clear that utilization of SM and medical Apps in healthcare is changing, potentially facilitating the provision of high-quality healthcare. This trend has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to continue evolving with more advancement in the technological front. Nevertheless, to facilitate the deployment of such technology and realize its potential benefit, the perception and training needs of the healthcare workforce must be assessed. Our results reveal that medical interns, future physicians and healthcare leaders, are interested and even enthusiastic for an increasing role of technology in healthcare delivery. However, they also discuss fundamental issues, such as patient privacy and confidentiality, which are uncertain and can hinder wider use of SM and medical Apps in healthcare service delivery. The results of this research point to the need for targeted and specific training for, junior and senior, medical personnel to improve their experience with these technologies and ensure patients receive an optimal quality of care.

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This page is a summary of: Social Media and Medical Applications in the Healthcare Context: Adoption by Medical Interns, Saudi Journal of Health Systems Research, February 2022, Karger Publishers, DOI: 10.1159/000521635.
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