Social media is constantly evolving. Therefore, it is impossible to cover the thousands of platforms that exist both globally and locally. What is trending now can become obsolete a year from today. MySpace was once the largest social networking platform globally, with over 200 million users in 2008. Today, only a fraction of users are still active. While Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok are currently the most widely used social media platforms, that statistic can change in the coming years (Brooke & Anderson, 2021).

With the expansion of the internet worldwide, social media quickly became part of most people’s life – see and use statistics images from: and

Social media offers significant opportunities for global health organizations to enhance their engagement in community dialogue, contribute to ongoing problem-solving, recognize the work of partner organizations, and help improve mass media coverage of global health issues. Social media can be an addition to traditional media methods (television, print media, billboards, etc.), further expanding the reach and reinforcement of critical health and development messages. Research in the field shows that social media currently reshapes health information management by providing cost-effective ways to improve patient-provider communication and exchanging health-related information and experience for medical professionals (Zhou et al., 2018). More and more people are searching for information online, especially with the new pandemic of COVID-19. Data from Eurostat from 2020 shows that prior to 2019, 53% of the EU citizens aged 16-74 sought online health information (Eurostat, 2020). In 2020, one in two EU citizens aged 16-74 reported seeking health information online, the total percentage growing to 55%.

Additionally, 20% of EU citizens reported consulting their doctor using the internet and 13% accessed other health services via apps and websites instead of visiting a doctor in person (Eurostat, 2021). The health information sought varies from online discussions about specific diseases (e.g. cancer) to different public health concerns (e.g. food waste, pollution) (Zhao & Zhang, 2017). During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of health information was related to the virus, from prevention methods to quarantine and self-isolation practices (Soroya et al., 2021).

These trends lead to more people using the internet and web search engines for obtaining health advice or information online (Arora, McKee, and Stuckler 2019). This phenomenon led to the apparition of new terms, such as “Dr Google” and mobile health apps, being used especially by younger and e-health literate patients (Cocco et al. 2018; Jungmann et al. 2020; Huisman, Joye, and Biltereyst 2019; Ieraci 2018; Thapa et al. 2021). For these types of patients, using Google positively impacted doctor-patient interaction and was unlikely to reduce adherence to treatment (Cocco et al. 2018). Social media can empower people to make better and informed health decisions and develop personal health information management. Health information management is defined as “activities that people perform in order to acquire, organize, maintain, share, retrieve, and use health information items to complete healthcare tasks and fulfil their needs” (Zhou et al., 2018).

Moreover, social media provides the opportunity to generate a vast amount of content from social media users, advancing health science and creating support communities for patients (Zhou et al., 2018). This phenomenon also offered the chance for health professionals to transition from simple consumers of social media to educators for the public (Giustini et al., 2018; Ieraci, 2018) and for social media to be used in medical education with promising results (Cheston et al., 2013).

Also, by joining online professional networks, clinicians may be encouraged toward new ways of learning, not just access to content. Still, they can also become “skilled in the arts of critical appraisal and willing to interact with knowledge producers to provide thoughtful and meaningful critiques of their work.” (Chan et al., 2018).

The major benefits of social media in healthcare settings are as follows:

  • increased interactions among healthcare stakeholders
  • more available, shared, and tailored information
  • increased accessibility and widening access to health information
  • peer/social/emotional support
  • public health surveillance
  • potential to influence health policy (Chan et al., 2018).

Although social media showed promising results in improving healthcare, research in this field is still relatively novel, with many technical, behavioral, and data management issues to be fixed in the future (Zhou et al., 2018). Studies in the field show that many available websites and health apps only increase emotional distress and have inadequate information accuracy, quality, trustworthiness, and readability (Rothrock et al. 2019; Jungmann et al. 2020). Research, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, also showed that health literacy plays an essential role in managing online health information, and globally most people have poor health literacy skills, thus leading to poor skills in managing online health information (Paakkari and Okan 2020). Social media resources’ volume and instant accessibility means that learners (and their educators) need new skills. These skills refer to filtering the volume of material available, critically appraising social media content, and reconciling the use of social media resources with those considered more “traditional” (Roland and Brazil 2015).  To filter the relevant, quality content for clinical learning, people require to have a strategy, including some technical skills (e.g., using web-based aggregators) and familiarity with contemporary (and emerging) platforms.

Last modified: Monday, 3 October 2022, 12:41 PM