White Coats on Instagram: What Does Pharmacy Look Like?

MARCH 17, 2017
David Cabral, 2017 PharmD Candidate, the University of Connecticut
With more than 300 million users, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms available. The image-sharing interface has allowed subscribers to share information and ideas with others around the globe. Users on Instagram post photos and videos from their daily lives, linking them to searchable data tags called hashtags (denoted with a preceding # symbol).
 
A new study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association analyzed the use of the “#pharmacist” tag on Instagram. The researchers hoped to categorize the intent of the collected posts and discern whether they were self-portrayed or health care related images.
 
After a 14-day trial period, the researchers selected 661 posts that used #pharmacist in their caption. The posts were characterized into categories including Advertisement, Celebration, Pharmacy Education, Humor, and more. Investigators then subjectively determined if the posts contained self-portrayed images and if they were related to health care.
 
Most of the posts (19.7%) fell into the Celebration category. Work Experience contained 18.6% and Advertisement contained 12.6%. All other categories contained 10% or less of the Instagram posts. 
 
Less than a fourth (23.2%) of the posts were self-portrayed images. Conversely, the vast majority (88%) of posts were related to health care.
 
Given that only 5.5% of images provided patient education or drug information and just 1.8% of images were viewed as advocating for the pharmacy profession, pharmacists may be ignoring a useful mode of communication with prospective patients in this social media-driven age.
 
The authors also expressed concern for the potential risks social media exposure brings. Since the content is all user-created, false information can easily spread online and damage credibility. They also caution against the use of humor as it may promote negative stereotypes about the profession.
 
In an ever-changing technological world, Instagram and other forms of social media can be useful tools for pharmacists to provide patient education, public health information, or professional advocacy to diverse patients worldwide.
 
Reference
 
Hindman FM Jr, Bukowitz AE, Reed BN, Mattingly TJ 2nd. No filter: A characterization of #pharmacist posts on Instagram. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2017 Mar 4. pii: S1544-3191(17)30009-2. doi: 10.1016/j.japh.2017.01.009. [Epub ahead of print]
 

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