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Facebook Live Videos Can Educate Patients About Breast Cancer Screening


Radiologists can use online videos as a way to correct inaccurate breast cancer screening messages.

Social media is an easy avenue for social interaction online. Now, imagine, as a breast imaging specialist, using it to reach patients, making sure they understand the importance – and the details – of breast cancer screening.

Radiologists have the tools at their fingertips to make this happen, said Hilda H. Hso, D.O, assistant professor in the department of breast imaging at MD Anderson Caner Center.

“Social media represents a relatively untapped tool that breast radiologists can leverage to advocate for the potential life-saving benefits of screening mammography,” she said in a study published in the Journal of Digital Imaging.

Using a platform, such as Facebook Live, to give women breast cancer screening guidance and encourage them to get their annual mammogram can be an effective idea under normal circumstances. Launching a program now could be even more impactful as people are online more currently due to the stay-at-home orders widely implemented nationwide during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Patients Want Information -- But It Must Be Accurate

It’s already widely known that most adults use some type of social media, and according to existing research, up to 80 percent of patients seek health information online. Of that group, 75 percent opt for using Facebook. In fact, a 2019 Pew Internet study noted that 70 percent of adults have Facebook accounts, and more that 50 percent of them use it for gathering health-related news.

Research also shows that social media interest is high for breast cancer information, unfortunately most online data is either not based on scientific evidence, misleading, or completely incorrect. And, with more than 620 Facebook breast cancer groups with more than 1 million members -- according to a 2011 study -- this gives radiologists the perfect opportunity to step in to improve patient health.

“Radiologists can help demystify the controversy surrounding screening mammography guidelines with Facebook,” she said. “Specifically, Facebook Live videos empower radiologists to share evidence-based best practices, incorporate question-and-answer sessions, and engage patients and patient communities from even the most remote parts of the world.”

Providing Breast Cancer Screening Education

Bringing updated breast cancer screening information should be more than simply posting articles or studies, she said. Not only do Facebook Live videos garner six times the viewership of traditional video posts, but they also give providers the opportunity to engage directly with patients. The venue also allows for colleagues or other patients to share insights and experiences.

Hso and her co-author Jay Parikh, M.D., FACR, professor of diagnostic radiology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, outlined three overall phases for creating a Facebook Live video.

1. Planning: Before creating a video, radiologists must choose a date, time, and title for the event, as well as outline the specifics of what topics will be discussed. The video should be at least 10 minutes long, but not more than three hours.

2. Broadcast: To launch a broadcast, a radiologist must press “+LiveVideo” from an existing Facebook page or profile. The broadcast should include an introduction of the presenters and the topic, and it should actively engage viewers with a question-and-answer session. The moderator of the video should also ask viewers to follow the page or profile to continue receiving up-to-date breast cancer screening information.

3. Post-Broadcast: Hosts and presenters should take time after the broadcast ends to answer comments. The broadcast should also be saved and shared for anyone interested in watching who wasn’t able to see it live.

Potential Challenges

Although radiologists might be familiar with Facebook and maintaining a personal profile, using the platform to disseminate breast cancer screening information can still present challenges, Hso said. Discomfort with new technology, privacy concerns, and limited time availability are typically the main stumbling blocks.

New Technology: Just as some providers might have struggled with implementing an electronic medical record, others may find it daunting to work with a social media platform. But, support from hospital administration, including social media training and IT resources, can make the process easier.

For example, Hso said, the Mayo Clinic used its Social Media Network to launch an online certificate course in 2015 called “Social Media Basics for Healthcare Training,” and MD Anderson Cancer Center has a Strategic Communications–Integrated Media Team that guides employees through the proper way to use Facebook and Twitter professionally.

Privacy: Maintaining HIPAA compliance when using Facebook can be a significant concern as the platform isn’t currently mandated to abide by the privacy law. So, radiologists must be particularly careful to remove all patient identifiers when sharing images during video broadcasts.

Facebook has taken steps to help, however, Hso said. In the light of the recent privacy criticisms, Facebook created Facebook Health Support Groups in early 2019 that allow members to post and send requests anonymously.

“This added layer of protection may alleviate radiologists’ concerns by giving them the security of knowing that confidentiality and security are being safeguarded by a responsible third party,” Hso said.

Limited Time: Radiologists already work long hours, and asking them to add in social media responsibilities can create dissatisfaction with their work-life balance, she said.

To work around overloading providers, practices can either select a point person who will take on social media responsibilities as part of their job description or they can create an in-house social media team responsible for regular social media output and maintenance.

Despite these potential challenges, leveraging social media to provide women with breast cancer screening information they can trust can be critical to combatting the plethora of inaccurate messages circulating online, Hso said.

“With widespread usage of social media in both personal and professional life, Facebook Live is a readily accessible and valuable tool to aid radiologists in disseminating factual information and educating patients and physicians on the controversial topic of mammography guidelines,” she said.

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