A new study that was released by UC Merced has shown that using social media can significantly impact health, and have a huge impact on the health care industry. The results of this study were presented at Cleveland Clinic’s sixth annual Patient Experience: Empathy + Innovation Summit.
Craig Hashi, a Twitter engineer began to highlight statistics which were relating social media and health care. One of the statistics was about how 40 percent of consumers believe information they get through social media impacts how they deal with their own health. About 25 percent of all internet users who have chronic illnesses also look for people online with similar health issues. 42 percent of people also search online for various health product reviews, treatments, and providers. Hashi found that there was 44 million cancer-related tweets in the past 12 months, which ended in March 2015. During Breast Cancer Awareness month, the number of related tweets exploded. Hashi said that “The combination of social media and mobility are changing how people consume information, and healthcare marketers should take notice.”
Graduate student Holly Rus also conducted a study that analyzed how health-related Facebook posts influenced and helped connect Facebook users. This was done with collaboration from another UC Merced professor, Linda Cameron, who focuses on health communication and psychological interventions. Russ looked at the more widely-known Facebook pages, based on the number of “Likes” the pages had, and she gathered the most recent posts from each page. Rus then counted the number of users that liked, shared, and commented on the posts. Rus said the long-term goal was to understand if information that is shared on social media has an impact on health-related behaviors.
Rus found in her study that including images with the Facebook posts causes the post to get more likes and shares. Videos and external links however did not result in any increases in sharing or likes though. Rus also found out that posts that asked social media users for their input or comments did receive comments and other types of input. The posts that used negative emotions ended up getting more user reactions than those posts that had a more positive tone.
Since social media is becoming a larger resource for health communications, the research Rus did is very important to knowing whether or not people are taking the information they see seriously. There is a dynamic happening with both Facebook and Twitter in terms of people looking for health information and seeking out other people in similar types of situations. There is also a dynamic between the television and Twitter because people are on Twitter while also watching television.
A cloud-based clinical platform for treatment reports, Innerlife STS, collects data and analyzes the data concerning mental health care and the integration into the primary medical care field. Innerlife STS helps create and compose conceptualized narratives, and then builds these things into a professional-grade report. Primary care and mental health professionals use these reports to assess how people are getting information and how it is helping or harming in terms of getting people treatment they need. This study is showing that people more now than ever are using social media to collect information, whether it’s on a medical issue they are dealing with or someone else in their family is dealing with.
In terms of how this study can help medical professionals, it can help them find out how to reach out to specific groups of the population, such as addicts and people who are dealing with mental illness. There is a great need for more information being available to the public in an easy to understand way, which is something that both Twitter and Facebook can do. The study is also showing that people are more apt to reach out to other people, such as through online support groups, and this can help patients come to terms with their illness or condition, and can also educate people on treatments available they might not have known about before.
As social media continues to grow, we will only see more health care and health-related information being shared online, which does help the medical community in terms of knowing how to communicate with the general public. The only negative to all of this is that people do tend to believe what they read online, which can result in misinformation in terms of people trying to self-diagnose themselves through online-only resources. Doctors want people to know that as informative Facebook and Twitter can be, you still should make sure you see a doctor if you think you have a health-related medical issue. Social media would be best used for finding support online, especially if you are alone and don’t have close friends or family around, but it should be used responsibly only.