Social Media in Health

Site: Moodle
Course: Social Media in eHealth
Book: Social Media in Health
Printed by: Guest user
Date: Wednesday, 29 November 2023, 1:07 AM


Various considerations about Social Media in Health.
Each book chapter presents a specific key issue!

1. Professional Education

Social media can provide healthcare professionals with tools to share health information, promote health behaviors, or educate and interact with patients, caregivers, students, and colleagues (Ventola, 2014).

Social media is used in health primarily as a tool to improve upon health outcomes both on a national and international level, to professionally network and or to increase awareness of health issues. In addition to this, healthcare professionals use social media as a tool to improve personal knowledge of health-related news and discoveries and to provide health information to the community (Ventola, 2014).

2. Professional Networking

The most popular use of social media in health is for professional networking. In this scenario, healthcare professionals participate in online communities where they can read articles, follow and listen to experts, research new medical developments, interact and consult colleagues regarding patient issues.

In this community, physicians can share cases and ideas, make referrals, disseminate their research and market practices for health advocacy (Ventola, 2014).

3. Organizational Promotion

In addition to networking with other professionals, healthcare providers also use social media to promote their organization or services, access continuing education and professional development, or create interest groups. Notably, healthcare professionals can use social media for patient care (Lagu et al., 2016).

4. Patient Care

The use of social media to directly interact with patients is increasing in popularity. Some healthcare facilities have established platforms where patients can directly contact their doctor to ask questions or request prescription refills.

5. Patient-Provider Communication

Social media opened the door to better communication between the patient and the provider, offering patients the chance to interact with providers to which they would normally have no access (e.g. providers from other cities or countries)(Junhan & Wang, 2021). Research in this field showed that some challenges exist regarding privacy, confidentiality and skills related to using social media. Still, overall the interactions between patients and providers on social media have benefited them all (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

6. Patient Education and Public Health Programs

Additionally, social media platforms can provide patient education and health monitoring or encourage behavioral changes and drug adherence. The purpose of this is to promote better education, “increased compliance and better outcomes (Ventola, 2014, p. 495).”

Further, such platforms could be used to obtain feedback from their patients/clients or link their patients with support groups. The patient can also benefit from social media in health because social media can improve patients access to health care information. Physicians can use social media to promote patient education by making health-related posts, videos or participating in specific forums.

Forums allow providers an opportunity to distribute evidence-based information or to counter inaccurate material on the Internet (Ventola, 2014). Similarly, the patient participating in these forums have the opportunity to interact with individuals who may have similar health conditions to them. On these platforms, individuals can exchange health information or tips. Over the years, social media has been widely used to offer health resources and reach and direct campaigns audiences and intervention participants, especially populations that otherwise would have no access to health information.

Moreover, social media is extremely useful in bridging the communication between health professionals and institutions and the people at large (Junhan & Wang, 2021). Social media is a valuable tool in helping people document and share their progress of different health behaviors and engage in competitions or other challenges related to their health with their peers (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

7. Facilitate Health-Related Research

Social media has a dual role in facilitating health-related research.

  • First, it provides additional data about patients disease experiences by analyzing their conversations on social media, which ultimately leads to an enhanced understanding of patients experiences.
  • Second, social media has the potential to recruit participants for health-related research as data shows that social media performs better than traditional methods in terms of recruitment, especially for hard-to-reach populations (e.g. immigrants) (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

8. Infoveillance

Infoveillance can be defined as “the application of infodemiology with the aim of surveillance”. In other words, it refers to surveilling and analyzing the information found over the internet in an unstructured manner to inform public health and policies (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

Social media can be used to predict future illness onset for users by analyzing the language and keywords used on social media. Moreover, analyzing emojis and special characters used in social media posts can help predict certain mental health illnesses, asthma, or difficulty breathing syndrome (Edo-Osagie et al., 2019; Thorstad & Wolff, 2019).

Infoveillance also has the potential to predict different infectious disease outbreaks, such as in the COVID-19 where data shows that social media has the potential to accurately predicts the disease outbreak case count and to use geographical data from social media to inform medical research and practice (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

9. Seek and Share Health-Related Information

Social media is widely used by the general population for finding and sharing health-related information. Many studies raised concerns related to the quality of the information mentioned above and urged not only for efforts to reduce misinformation on social media but also for more sources of reliable health-related information on social media (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

10. Disseminate Health Information and Combat Misinformation

Social media can help health institutions to disseminate health information by rapidly sharing information with the population. Information about healthy living, immunization, disease outbreaks, prevention can be offered to populations via social media (Junhan & Wang, 2021).

Moreover, social media can potentially combat the spread of misinformation by refuting rumors, fact-checking algorithms, and optimization strategies to only display evidence-based health information to users (Junhan & Wang, 2021; Mheidly & Fares, 2020).

11. Offer and Exchange Social Support for Health-Related Problems

Social media offers an excellent outlet for social support as people with different medical conditions can connect and provide and receive informational support content (Junhan & Wang, 2021). Moreover, people can offer and receive emotional support and network support to better manage and cope with their medical condition.

Research in the field demonstrated that people with health concerns benefit from participating in online communities by suffering from less discrimination and stigmatization, receiving support promptly, and having a sense of control over the help-seeking process. Overall, it was found that online communities offered better perceived social support and predicted increased subjective well-being of users (Junhan & Wang, 2021).