We all know that just about everyone today is on some kind of social media platform.

“Nearly 90% of adults turn to social media to find health information.”

Because there are few strict rules on social media, there is rarely anyone fact checking posts to ensure the information being shared is accurate. This can often lead to the rapid spread of false information.

We’ve all seen it happen–one person has a bad experience at a restaurant and they share their story on social media. Potential new patrons see this review and develop a poor opinion of the restaurant before even trying it. Despite reading other positive reviews, there is a natural human tendency, called the negativity bias, to fixate on bad experiences and it can make or break businesses.

The same thing goes for healthcare–there is so much false information circling around, attempting to pollute our minds. It’s so easy to be convinced that nothing is safe anymore and that you can’t trust anyone. With that in mind, we have to ask ourselves: how can healthcare providers become a reliable source for communities?

“Healthcare providers must become a source of credible information and use social media to gather real-time insights.”

Nearly 90% of adults turn to social media to find health information. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so many others. Instead of going to the doctor or trusted health websites, people often look up their symptoms and find self remedies. It’s important that healthcare providers ensure their social feeds are a reliable source for health information to stop false information from spreading and to maintain a reputation for accuracy.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Stay on Top of Popular Health Trends

Homemade detoxes have become a popular trend yet they provide little to no benefits at all, according to most studies. Fad diets like keto or paleo are circling their way around the social media community as well, but one study shows that about 1 in 5 videos recommending fad diets are unproven alternative therapies. Healthcare providers should stay informed about trending diets and detoxes and provide valuable context and disclaimers when necessary to protect their audiences.

2. Debunk Information with Facts

Keep followers on track of their health by putting out content that challenges these fad diets with science-based facts. Instead of that cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar juice cleanse, why not just cut out processed sugar instead? This is an easy step that is proven to make a meaningful difference in their health outcomes  that is backed by hundreds of scientific studies. Online communities count on healthcare providers to  debunk misinformation and offer better, more credible alternatives.

3. Use Hashtags as a Tool to Educate Your Patients

Using popular hashtags, like #flu, allows people to look up specific information pertaining to that topic. Healthcare providers should utilize hashtags to keep followers aware of new health knowledge and possible outbreaks near them. The great thing about using hashtags is that they can also reach people outside of your network. They promote the circulation of reliable information and help debunk pernicious rumors.

4. Stay Compliant

Another important thing to consider is that posts stay on track with healthcare privacy laws, like HIPAA, FDA guidelines, and FTC rules of advertising. In a nutshell: stay truthful, state disclosures and warnings, and link to credible sources only. Most people are not fact checking what they read on the internet, so it’s important that healthcare providers know what they’re talking about and have the hard science to back it up. Many social advertisers who use influencers to promote their magical supplements do not include FDA and HIPAA warnings. Because of this, we cannot trust their claims. Companies and brands that hold themselves to a higher standard influence more people.

And lastly:

5. Engage

Reading and replying to comments is probably the most fun thing about social media. Healthcare providers should stay in touch with their followers and listen to reviews and requests. Begin conversations with people to find out more ways to continue bringing reliable, relevant, and up-to-date content to their feeds.

It’s a no-brainer that almost everyone uses social media. It’s used to find and share information and to make health conscious decisions. Healthcare providers should become a source of credible information for everyone and use social media to their advantage to gather real-time insights and information.

Social media is a powerful and accessible tool in the hands of a skilled user. Healthcare professionals must harness it to its fullest to provide great care.