Providers are using social media to engage patients, collaborate with each other.

It’s beginning to happen, slowly, but surely. Social media use in healthcare is beginning to scratch the surface.

The UCLA Health System live-tweets brain surgery, including short video clips to reduce future patients’ fear of a procedure. Johns Hopkins uses Facebook to generate a 21-fold increase of people who registered themselves as an organ donor in a single day. Texas Health Resources in Arlington is using social media internally and externally, for knowledge-sharing, team building, education, and employee recruitment. Out of the organization’s 21,500 employees, 3,500 are active social media users.

This is just a small sampling of how healthcare organizations, specifically leading providers, are beginning to embrace what many, and some likely still, dismiss as a passing fancy. For many, the use of social media is no longer just being passed off as a marketing effort. Leading providers are even integrating it into clinical operations and overall efforts to improve patient engagement. Others are using it to collaborate with others to better navigate the tricky, regulatory waters upon which IT leaders in healthcare are facing.

An April 2012 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Health Research Institute (HRI) found that 60 percent of consumers would trust health information posted on social media by their doctors, 55 percent would trust a hospital, and 56 percent would trust a nurse. The same study found that one-third of all consumers use social media for healthcare information. Since then, social media in healthcare has only grown and many say it will continue to grow.

“[Social media] is too much of a natural process—because people use this stuff everyday in all aspects of their lives—it’s only natural that it will [continue] to make the jump to healthcare itself. When you can order a plane ticket, order a pizza, and deposit your paycheck from a phone, you’re going to want to access your health records, schedule a doctor visit, get your lab results, and you are going to want to ask a health question,” says Jeff Livingston, M.D., a physician at MacArthur Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Infertility in Irving, Texas.