An Epsilon study found that 40% of online consumers use social media for health information. Social media refers to the many online tools that allow people to communicate with each other and share information and resources. Social media can include text, audio, video, images, podcasts, and other multimedia platforms.
What to look for on social networking sites
Many people turn to social networking sites to help them deal with their health problems. It is easier for many to ‘open up’ to their anonymous online friends, especially if they do not want their loved ones to worry about them. People on these Web sites can sometimes offer more objective and impartial advice. However, some of these sites are nothing more than a forum for marketers, and many offer advice that actually is far different from what current clinical guidelines would recommend.
The following is a short list of what to look for when determining whether or not to join a social networking site:
* A credential moderator with credentials – someone should watch the boards to make sure that nothing inappropriate is said
* Accessible privacy policies
* Prompt correction of misinformation by a moderator or other professional
* Ability to change privacy settings, for instance, if you do not want to display your name, geographical location, age, etc
* Clear labeling of advertisements vs other content
* Basic medical information that is in line with what your physicians have recommended
Tips to stay safe online
Hackers: Understand that hackers can break into people’s accounts and send messages, so they look like they came from your friends. Avoid clicking links in messages that you receive if you at all question the validity of them.
Your address book: Do not agree to let these sites scan your e-mail account’s address books to invite your friends to join you or to find out if any of your contacts also are on the network.
Fake profiles: Social engineering is when an identity theft creates fake profiles on sites. Use caution about who you accept as a friend on social networking sites.
Permanent content: What you write on these sites is permanent. Even if you later delete your account, someone could have previously saved or printed the information.
Think about what you post regarding your personal life. Many people let others know when they are going on vacation, post photos of their house or children, include their phone number in posts, and divulge other information that a criminal could use.
A few good sites
Barbara Ficarra RN, BSN, MPA, an award-winning journalist, media broadcaster, speaker, medical blogger, consultant, media trainer, and health expert, recommends the following sites for individuals looking to delve into the world of health social media:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Health News Review
Health Tech Today
The Health Care Blog
References and recommended readings
Ficarra B. Social media: medical social networking?part 2. Available at: http://healthin30.com/2011/03/social-media-medical-social-networking-part-2/. Accessed on March 8, 2011.
iVillage Health. Diabetes social networking Web sites vary in quality. Available at:
http://www.ivillage.com/diabetes-social-networking-web-sites-vary-quality/4-a-324634. Accessed on March 8, 2011.
Landro L. Social networking comes to health care. Available at: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06363/749317-96.stm. Accessed on March 8, 2011.
Morrison K. Health care meets social networking. Available at: http://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2009/01/19/daily9.html. Accessed on March 8, 2011.
Navy Hospital Twentynine Palms. 10 tips for social networking safety. Available at:
http://robertebushnavalhospital.blogspot.com/2009/07/10-tips-for-social-networking-safety.html. Accessed March 8, 2011.
Sachoff M. Consumers turn to social media for health support: social media plays important role in healthcare. Available at: http://www.webpronews.com/2010/04/11/consumers-turn-to-social-media-for-health-support/. Accessed March 8, 2011.
Sharp J. Social media in health care: barriers and future trends. Available at: http://www.ihealthbeat.org/perspectives/2010/social-media-in-health-care-barriers-and-future-trends.aspx. Accessed on March 8, 2011.