Findings
This project was conducted to explore the effects of social media on healthcare use. Prior to the data collection, current literature was analyzed regarding healthcare use and Internet access. It was found that Internet access has a positive correlation with healthcare use. However, this project was specifically aimed at social media and whether or not social networking platforms impacts how often an individual uses healthcare services. This project suggests that social media does have an impact on how much an individual uses healthcare services. The findings from this project showed a positive correlation between social media use and use of healthcare services. However, several limitations impacted the validity of this projects. Recommendations for further research are discussed.

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Limitations
Proper funding was a limitation in the current study. Due to lack of funds, this project gathered its participants through the use of social media. Since social media is a free service, it was easy for the researcher to gather participants for the study. However, the population the sample was drawn from was inadequate given the specific research design. If given adequate funding and opportunity, it would have been beneficial to conduct this study at an undergraduate university which attracts individuals from rural, suburb, and urban areas. College aged students use social media more than any other age group. Thus, it would have been beneficial to draw the sample from an undergraduate population. Because social media was used to recruit participants, the researcher did not have adequate control over the sample (Thomas, 2006). More funding would allowed the researcher to have a more specified population with a more adequate sample for this project.

Time as also a limitation. With more time, a proper population and sample could have been drawn to create more validity in the project at hand. However, due to time constraints, the researcher was not picky with their population and selected sample. As a result, the validity of the sample was weakened. Overall, the main limitation to this study was the population the sample was drawn from. If this project was conducted on an undergraduate campus, the sample drawn would have allowed researcher to properly analyze the effect social media has on healthcare use.

Use and Application of Findings
The use and application of these findings can contribute to current literature by providing the groundwork on the impact that social media has on healthcare use. These findings allow for further research in the field regarding the effect social media has on healthcare use. The findings from this study will also help current healthcare professions properly implement social media in order to increase use at their facility. The findings from this project suggest a positive correlation between social media and healthcare use. This project also suggests that social media has a direct impact on healthcare use in rural areas. This project found a stronger correlation with healthcare use in rural areas than suburban/urban areas. All of the above findings can contribute to the healthcare industry by helping researchers and healthcare professionals understand the connection between social media and healthcare use (Betts, O’Donoghue & Aikin, 2016).

This project also explored how participants feel and react to other healthcare consumer’s comments posted on social media. In regards to healthcare services, the majority of participants trusted other healthcare consumer’s comments and experiences. For the suburb/urban participants, almost half of them trusted other consumers more than actual healthcare professionals. While these findings do not apply to the study at hand, it is important for future research to analyze the fact that some individuals trust consumers more than the professionals in the healthcare field. Future research should also be conducted on how social media can be used in order to combat the problem. Social media could be used to help place the consumer’s trust back in the professional.

Recommendation: Further research on proper implementation. Other literature discovered that there is a link between Internet use and healthcare use. However, this project specifically looked at successful implementation in the healthcare field. There is currently limited research in the field, as many healthcare professionals are weary to implement social media due to ethical concerns. However, there are several healthcare professionals who have seen success with social media implementation. These professionals and organizations should be further explored to analyze the effect that social media has had on those organizations. More research should be conducted on the impact that social media has had on certain healthcare professionals. Positive and negative impacts should be researched, as other healthcare professionals can learn from incorrect implementation.

Recommendation: Implement healthcare social networking in rural areas. Current research has shown that Internet access has a positive correlation with healthcare use. This project looked at social media specifically and discovered that social media also has a positive correlation with healthcare use in rural areas. Researchers believe this is due to the limited healthcare resources in rural areas. It was found that the majority of rural participants trust information from other healthcare consumers. These consumers stated they receive more information from other consumers regarding their conditions than healthcare professionals or professional medical information on the Internet. It was also found that the rural participants feel more comfortable about their healthcare concerns when reading other healthcare consumers experiences through social media. One participant stated that they have received more education regarding their healthcare concerns from other healthcare consumers through social media. This participant also stated this was due to the medical jargon that is commonly used from healthcare professionals and public healthcare information. With the growing evolution of social media, more research should be conducted on the direct impact that social media can have on healthcare use in rural areas.

Recommendation: Consumer impact on healthcare field. Further research should be conducted in order to explore the finding that almost half of the suburb/urban participants trust other consumers more than the healthcare professionals. While this recommendation does seem off topic, it is important to understand the impact that consumers have on the healthcare professional in order to combat the issue. Social media is one platform that allows consumers to discuss their healthcare concerns with other healthcare consumers. This can be a problem for the entire healthcare field if researchers do not explore how or why consumers are trusting other consumers over healthcare professionals. Thus, further research is needed in order to determine the cause, or root, of why consumers are trusting other consumers more than professionals. This research can be used to help healthcare professionals to properly implement social media in order to counteract the issue (Smith, 2009). If researchers can analyze why consumers are trusting other consumers, than healthcare professionals can use that research in order to better reach healthcare consumers.

    References
  • Betts, K., O’Donoghue, A. & Aiken, K. (2016). Professional online community membership and participation among healthcare providers: an extension to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
  • Smith, T. (2009). The social media revolution. International journal of market research, 51(4), 559-561.
  • Thomas, D. R. (2006, June 2). A general inductive approach for analyzing qualitative data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2), 237-246.