Digital tools can help patients and practices

November 14, 2018

Social media and other digital platforms offer pediatricians a new way to deliver information on health promotion to patients and their families.

From calendars to social calls, digital tools are a big part of everyday life, but harnessing the power of digital tools can be challenging for medical practices.

Megan Moreno, MD, PhD, MSEd, MPH, associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, gave an overview of the opportunities digital tools offer in a session titled “A New #Top10: Using Digital Tools to Promote Health” on November 5 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2018 National Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida.

Moreno gave an overview of how digital tools have developed over the last decade, noting that social media is now used by more than 75% of adults. Social media and other online platforms offer pediatricians a new way to deliver information on health promotion, Moreno says. Highlighting 10 ways to use digital tools in their practices, Moreno discussed digital tools for promoting clinics, building and engaging communities, and collaborating with colleagues and stakeholders.

“While health risks and concerns of digital media remain salient for pediatricians to address in clinic visits, digital tools also can be used in a positive way to promote health,” Moreno told Contemporary Pediatrics ahead of the conference.

Digital tools promote health literacy

In the session, faculty discussed 10 ways in which digital tools, such as interactive media and platforms, gaming, and electronic health records, can be used to help families understand health information, promote healthy behaviors, increase opportunities for quality family time, and help families engage with their pediatrician.

In one of these tips, Moreno encourages pediatricians to seek out new perspectives on social media and the web, such as by reading posts by parents who are vaccine hesitant to better understand their concerns and questions.

“By deliberately seeking out new perspectives, expressed openly by parents or patients, pediatricians can gain new understanding of information that patients may be hesitant to share in a clinic visit,” Moreno says.

Moreno suggests in another tip that pediatricians use their social media pages to connect within their local communities.

“Connecting to local organizations can help pediatricians to know about events and happenings by following local schools and public health departments,” she says. “Building community at the national level, such as following national leaders including the AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also can allow pediatricians to be in the loop on salient health updates, or retweet or share important reminders, such as flu shot reminders, with patients and families via social media.”

Other tips include encouraging pediatricians to use social media to advocate for kids and ensure child health is at the forefront of policy decisions, and use social media to “nourish themselves by mindfully selecting what to follow, whether it is a source of humor, healthy foods, or inspiring voices.”

Moreno says that while much of the guidance on social media from leaders in the pediatric community initially focused on educating parents about the risks digital tools posed to children, new evidence has also suggested there are some benefits-for children and pediatricians alike.

 

“Digital tools are increasingly recognized as tools, value-neutral and with outcomes depending on how they are used. Benefits of social media use for teens includes social connection, new learning opportunities, an outlet for creativity, and civic engagement,” Moreno says. “Social media has evolved from a concern for teen health to a global phenomenon among teens and adults, to a new tool that can be leveraged by pediatricians for the benefit of their patients and families, their communities, and themselves.”