Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Health Care Social Media Review, 10th Edition: Social Media and Chronic Disease

Welcome to the tenth edition of Health Care Social Media Review.  This week’s theme is the role of social media in addressing, managing and preventing chronic diseases.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic diseases, also known as noncommunicable diseases (NCD), are a leading cause of death worldwide.  NCDs encompass four main groups: cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders and diabetes; these diseases can affect people of any age and socioeconomic group.  As Kenneth Thorpe observed on HealthWorks Collective, “the key to addressing our greatest 21st century health care challenges—controlling costs while achieving improved health outcomes—lies in attacking chronic disease.”  
Beyond patient communities
Social media can be a powerful tool in addressing the challenges created by chronic diseases.  A report produced by NEHI notes that "social media sites engage and educate patients in personal health care, connect patients with their peers, implement evidence-based interventions and change behavior over time."
Writing on the HealthyComms blog for Shift Communications, Amanda Guisbond notes that our view of health care social media is often limited to patient communities that cater to those who have been diagnosed with a particular illness.   However, Amanda continues, the boundaries of health care social media are expanding.  New communities such as MeYouHealth seek to influence people before they become sick by promoting healthy lifestyles.  Amanda writes, "I love the idea that social media influences us to see health in a broader context and not as something we have to attend to once we've been dealt some bad news."  I love the idea too.

The influence of social media is also expanding beyond patient communities organized around those with specific diseases.  The State of Health blog recently profiled a new initiative targeted at youth in the San Francisco Bay area.  The Bigger Picture is a collaboration between Youth Speaks, a spoken word poetry organization, and the University of California San Francisco.  Through the program, twenty poet mentors are turning online peoms into videos to educate high school students on Type 2 diabetes and encourage them to lobby their communities to make neighborhoods healthier.  As one poet stated in the Bigger Picture introductory video, Type 2 diabetes is "no longer our grandparents' disease." 

Improving the quality of health care

There is also a movement to broaden the audiences of patient communities by including health care providers.  WEGO Health invited Kelly Young, founder of the first non-profit advocacy group for rheumatoid arthritis patients in the US, to attend the Annual National Conference of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.  Kelly, writing about her experiences on the WEGO Health blog, noted that the experience was valuable in helping build alliances between health activists and health care providers.  Increased participation in patient communities by health care providers can help improve the quality of information found in these communities. 

Participation in social media by health care providers can also provide them with important patient insights.  On the Hive Strategies blog, Jean Kelso Sandlin writes that social communities can provide patients with a sense of belonging and the ability to cope with the challenges of their disease.  However, she continues, the benefits of social communities go beyond patient support.  Interactions in social communities may reveal information that may not be addressed in face to face interactions. 

At the Social Media Healthcare blog, Dr. Mark Ryan also makes the case for participation in social media by primary care physicians.  He writes, "Family medicine's bio-psycho-social approach to care, which enables us to provide capable and effective care for patients with chronic illness, would also be valuable in discussions with engaged and empowered patients who are seeking to improve their own health statuses."

Measuring impact and outcomes

Given the public health priority of addressing chronic diseases, we are beginning to see more interest in measuring the effectiveness of social media's ability to improve health outcomes.  In an interview with Jean Kelso Sandlin, also published on the Hive Strategies blog, Naser Partovi, the founder of Wellaho, noted that his firm has studied the use of the social network in patients with congestive heart failure, obesity and asthma.  In July, 2012, the University of California San Diego announced that it will conduct a clinical trial to determine whether the use of Wellaho improves doctor-patient interactions and health outcomes in diabetic patients. 

Connecting more than patients

Patients aren't the only ones using health care social media.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created several social communities to enable public health professionals to discuss chronic disease prevention and health promotion, including the blog, Preventing Chronic Disease Dialogue

The emergence of crowdfunding means that programs and products addressing chronic diseases may originate outside the research community.  Recently, the found of Medstartr, Alex Fair, spoke with Matthew Holt at the The Health Care Blog.  Medstartr is a way to build support among patients, physicians, and providers for innovative new health care programs or products.  Projects with demonstrated support can draw attention and funding from commercial partners.

Thank you for visiting this week's edition of Health Care Social Media Review.  Our next host is Barbara Ficarra at Health in 30.  Follow the blog carnival on Twitter for the latest news and information, including how to host or participate.  We look forward to hearing from you. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary on this important topic. This is a powerful use of social media.


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