by Lindsay Dixon BSc. Pharm. RPh.
In March of 2020, millions of Canadians were forced out of their work, their schools, their social circles, and into their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While in their homes, they began to seek information about what was happening to the world they once knew. Where did many of them go to find this critical information? Social media. Consequently, as one would expect, many were bombarded with information that only increased their confusion and fed their anxiety.
According to Canadiansinternet.com, 90% of Canadians have access to the internet, 88% of Millennials use Facebook weekly, followed by GenX at 83% and Baby Boomers at 79%. Bloomtools.ca shows that in 2019, after checking or responding to emails and performing online banking, the top activity enjoyed by Canadians online was social media, the most popular platform being Facebook. A staggering 86% of Canadians interact with businesses through social channels, and we know this number has increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.
The most common social platforms Canadians are accessing in 2019 according to Bloomtools.ca:
- 77% Facebook
- 35% Instagram
- 35% LinkedIn
- 26% Twitter
- 19% Snapchat
The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene recently published a study that analyzed the global impact of social media misinformation on public health, a phenomenon they call an “Infodemic.” Between December 31 and April 5, 2020, they identified 2,311 reports of rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories in 25 languages from 87 countries. Claims were related to illnesses, transmission and mortality, control measures, treatment and cure, as well as cause of disease including its origin. They found that 82% of these claims were indeed false. They also state in their report that “misinformation fueled by rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories can have potentially serious implications on the individual and community if prioritized over evidence-based guidelines.”
As pharmacists strategize ways to advocate for the profession, the above study highlights an incredible opportunity. As one of the most trusted and accessible healthcare professionals, our voices can have a significant, positive impact on these platforms. This approach requires that we give ourselves permission to venture into places and spaces we may not have thought could be a platform for good science, and adjust to the idea that good science can, in fact, play a positive role in public health on social media platforms. I would argue that your social network may even listen to you more readily than they would those in public health due to the types of relationships we already have with our patients, friends, and family.
The truth, spoken in an unlikely place, is still the truth. By inserting our voice into these spaces, we not only advocate for public health, we advocate for our profession; we educate the public on who we are, what we know, and why our place in society as pharmacists is indeed significant and essential.
As a pharmacist who has never been a fan of YouTube, I set up my first YouTube account in March of 2020. In an effort to combat the misinformation that was bombarding my friends and neighbours, I started a series of videos called “Friendly Pharmacy 5.” The messaging was a simple, easy-to-understand, 5-minute PowerPoint presentation with audio voiceover. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so much so I felt I had to continue making these videos. My viewers, many of whom are from my local community, continue to thank me and ask to be notified of future videos.
Five months later, the Friendly Pharmacy 5 YouTube channel is an initiative I have become very passionate about as I see it changing what people think of who we are as pharmacists and how we fit into their healthcare team. This is evident, not just because people are watching the content, but because they are telling me, over and over again, that they now have a new understanding of how much a pharmacist actually knows.
Every pharmacist has a voice. Where are your customers when they are not in your stores or places of practice? On social media. The potential for the voice of pharmacy to be amplified through the power of social media is astounding, and there has never been a more welcoming audience than the one that we have right now.
Many pharmacies already use social media to advertise their products and services to the community. However, it is each individual pharmacist who will garner the interest, loyalty, and respect of the public.
Not everyone has the time to make a video, but anyone can setup a Facebook page, Instagram page, or Twitter account in minutes and share one piece of solid information every week or so.
Healthcare is going to be on the forefront for the foreseeable future. Consider what you can do to bring the voice of pharmacy into the homes of our patients. We are healthcare experts and people are listening to us more now than ever before.
Our individual voices, providing calm and credible information on social media platforms, and yes, even in local media, are the strongest form of advocacy we have to date. The potential for making a massive impact on how the public perceives our profession is truly limitless. Now is the time to speak up, while the whole world is listening.
Lindsay Dixon BSc. Pharm. RPh. is a pharmacist with Fairview Pharmacy Ltd. & Friendly Pharmacy 5, email@example.com