Healthcare Social Media

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Post or Perish? Disseminating Scientific Research and the Kardashian Index

Publish or perish has long been the mantra of academic research. While this used to be limited to peer-reviewed journals, researchers are increasingly needing to include public outreach through social media to their list of communication vehicles. A recent panel at the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology conference this week in Seattle tackled this problem with some practical advice. With a focus on the environmental factors that can impact public health, the researchers at this conference have a definite need to reach a broad audience base not just to justify their grant money but to positively impact public health and the environment with their findings.

Disseminating air pollution effects on public health

Disseminating air pollution effects on public health

Disseminating scientific research to the general population is not an easy task. Media outlets like easy wins and definitive statements, but research results often need the fine print to be fully understood, and the fine print often contains details like study methodology or influencing factors that either are too complicated for the general public or limit the results of the findings to very specific situations. For example, perhaps a drug proves effective but only in left-handed blind mice that could play the tuba. This might be a big scientific breakthrough pointing towards broader benefits, but it’s not conclusive enough for media that want to say things like “New drug 100% effective” not “Drug thought to be effective in tuba-playing left-handed blind mice.”

One audience member, who worked in communications for a large research organization summed up this problem as ‘if a headline meets my criteria no media outlet would pick it up.’ That is, by the time the headline was completely scientifically unambiguous, like our blind mice example, it didn’t seem like news.

The session featured real world examples and best practices from http://escapeproject.eu/ and from the NIH. The Escape project was a multi-year study to evaluate the effects of air pollution from birth to death across a wide range of respiratory and other illnesses. You can understand why getting this information beyond academic readers to the general public is so important.

Some tips:

  • The communications plan needs to be part of the grant-writing process, and for studies that impact public health, you need to think beyond PubMed to the general press and social media.
  • Know what channels your audience accesses. Are they on Twitter or Facebook or maybe print media?
  • Understand what larger story your research is part of and position it within that context. For example, for Escape, it’s the impact of air pollution on health.
  • Understand the implications of your research for the general public. What action do you want them to take based on your findings?
  • Avoid scientific jargon.
  • Make sure you can distill the main message from the study, and as conclusively as possible within the parameters of your research topic.
  • Leverage partner organizations for their press and communications contacts and to disseminate the message. For example, the Escape project used respiratory related health organizations to help spread the word about their findings.
  • Photos can be a powerful way to get attention and disseminate information. Here Escape found that photos of major cities obliterated by smog were very effective to accompany news articles about their study results.
  • Don’t dismiss the Kardashian Index. Some researchers downplay the value of social media because the most popular scientists on social media are often doing the least amount of research and possibly not the best researchers. However rather than making them shy away from social media as a result, the presenters urged the audience to participate more actively to make sure their voices and research were heard. Popularity and valid information do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Do's and Don'ts for Social Media for Researchers

Do’s and Don’ts for Social Media for Researchers

As active social media participants here at Wellpepper, we have a couple of additional recommendations for researchers:

  • Try not to name your study with an acronym. Studies usually have very long names and then acronyms are coined as a short cut. However, they usually don’t convey the actual meaning of the study. “Escape” is an acronym for European Study for Air Pollution Effects. How about “Smog Europe?” ;). A descriptive name with a subtitle is a lot easy for the general public and news media to grasp.
  • Infographics can be a great way to communicate a lot of data-rich information like this one from the NIH about social media influence within a online medical community. Put your contact and study information on the infographic and make it easy for people to redistribute. (We didn’t include the NIH graphic here because it required emailing them for permission.)

Even within the session attendees that represented researchers from across the globe and in all career stages, there was a great digital divide. One young researcher implored her older colleagues to use Facebook to engage with scientists and potential scientists of her generation. She also mentioned that it was a great place to recruit study subjects. Another researcher from Chile talked about the power of social media for collecting data: getting reports from people on the ground who were facing environmental health challenges. This could have been a topic unto itself, and if more deeply explored might have convinced some of the more curmudgeonly audience members who were concerned about the current proliferation of communications channels, lack of ubiquitous digital access, and a worldwide decline in scientific literacy.

In the age of social media, the idea of publish or perish takes on new relevance and meaning, and hopefully scientists and researchers understand that embracing these new ways to engage directly with the general public will amplify the impact of their work.

Posted in: Behavior Change, Healthcare Social Media, Healthcare transformation, Seattle

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Just Because You Can, Does That Mean You Should?

Facebook’s recent experiments in social media mood contagion got us thinking about user-based testing in general and especially how that applies in healthcare technology that is intended to influence behavior.

The Experiment

happyFor one week in January 2012, Facebook manipulated the feeds of users to show content that was either positive or negative and then looked at whether this had an influence on users. The main point of contention or dissention is that this was human subject research without consent from the subjects and without the oversight of a review board as would be expected for university research. If the research hadn’t been published in a scientific journal then there might not have been so much controversy. What is the difference between A/B testing and what Facebook did? In A/B testing, marketers test different landing pages or campaigns and see which one works the best for their desired goal. Consumers don’t know that they are part of an experiment to test messages. However, consumers did freely follow a link that brought them to the content. The difference with Facebook is probably first, that they have significant power due to the volume of users and more importantly what they know about those users, and second although Facebook lawyers will tell you their terms of use covered it, Facebook users probably did not sign up with the expectation that Facebook itself would actively attempt to make them happy or sad.

How Do You Test Behavior Change?

It’s an interesting question for those involved in healthcare, and in particular trying to help people modify their behavior. In our case, at Wellpepper we are helping people be more adherent to home treatment programs. To do that we use a number of motivating factors including personalization and notifications. As part of building our application we test which features are effective in motivating people. We continually improve and change the application based on what we learn. Is this testing on human subjects? Yes. Did we get permission? Yes. This is part of our terms of use and it is also an essential part of how the industry builds software that people will use: by testing that software with real users. When people start using our software they use it to help them with a specific problem and they are happy when we make improvements to make it more effective to solve that problem. We encourage user feedback and implement new features based on it. So while, we may test new features, it is part of the implicit agreement of delivering software to users. (If you’ve ever used software that was not tested with real end-users, you’ll know the difference.)

When we test and add features that help improve user experience and become more adherent to their treatment program users are happy because we have helped them with their goals for using our software and the implicit contract with them. If we started testing and adding features that made them less adherent or changed some other type of behavior that they weren’t trying to change using our application we would have broken that contract and they might vote with their feet or in this case fingers and stop using the application.

What’s Your Implied User Contract?

The same thing could happen with Facebook, and it stems back to what their intention is with this research. The unfortunate thing is that they probably have enough data to have figured out that positive newfeeds make you happy and negative newsfeeds make you unhappy without actually manipulating the feeds. The fact that they did this, and did this without consent, brings up a bigger question of what their intention is, and what exactly is the implicit contract you have with Facebook. What exactly is their motive in trying to manipulate your emotions? For marketing experiments of this type the motive is pretty clear: consume more of their product. For Facebook it might be the same, but the fact that they tested negative messages does cause some alarm. Let’s hope they use their power for good.

Wellpepper2-1216aFor software developers that aim at healthcare behavior change there is an additional challenge as we think about testing features with real users. In order to help someone change behavior you need to test what works and that does need to be with real users. In general software development there are industry best-practices, for example, where you test different designs to find out which is most effective. This may be considered “experimentation” as users will not see the same features and some of the features they do see may not make it into the final version of the product. When you are doing this type of testing, you are looking for what is most effective in helping users achieve their goals. However, this testing must be done while protecting personal health information and not providing any harmful impact to the patient. Software developers can partner with research organizations whose internal review board will ensure that research on human subjects is conducted in the right way. To prove out efficacy of an entire application, this is often the best way to go but not practical for feature testing.

Guidelines for User Testing in Consumer Healthcare Applications

While looking at specific feature testing, these guidelines can help make sure you respect your end-user testers:

  • Unless you have explicit consent, all user testing must be anonymous. This is because if you are dealing with PHI and have signed a HIPAA BAA you have agreed to only access PHI when absolutely necessary. If you need to know demographics of your users for user testing, then you should err on the side of getting their explicit consent. This could be either via a form, or simply a non-anonymous feedback form on your application or website. By providing you with direct feedback the user has agreed to not be anonymous. (The good thing here is that patients can do whatever they want with their own data, so if they give you consent, to look at it, you have it.) That said, if you are working with healthcare organizations you will also have an agreement with them about contacting their patients: you need to make sure they have agreed to this as well. When possible err on the side of making data anonymous before analyzing it.
  • Think about the implicit contract you have with the user. If you are providing them with an application that does one thing, but you discover it may have applications for something else, don’t test features for that something else without getting consent. That is breaking the contract you have with them. Let’s look purely hypothetical example: at Wellpepper we have an application that increases patient adherence to home treatment programs for those undergoing physical rehabilitation. Let’s say we found out that people in physical rehabilitation are also often fighting with their spouses and started adding features or asking questions about the user’s relationship with his or her spouse, users would find this both unnerving and intrusive because that was not their expectation that we would help them with marital issues when they signed up for the application. Obviously this is a bit far-fetched, but you get the point.
  • Don’t get in the middle of human-to-human communication. This is essentially where Facebook broke the implicit contract with users by dis-intermediating the newsfeed. Your expectation with Facebook is that it’s a way for you to communicate with people (and sometimes organizations) you like. By changing what showed up in your feed, Facebook got in the middle of this. In healthcare this is even more important: don’t get between healthcare professionals and their patients. Make sure it’s clear when it’s you (the application, the company) talking and when it’s the caregiver and patient.
  • Consider where you’d get more value by partnering with a research organization. Sure it will take longer and may require more effort, but you will be able learn a lot more about why or how people are using your features by getting explicit research consent. I am not sure if it’s a coincidence or not but about a month ago I noticed that my Facebook newsfeed was full of extremely depressing stories. I remember wondering what was going on both with Facebook and the world in general and I remember wanting to post something depressing but then thought, “No I don’t want to add to this. I will only post positive things.” It’s possible that I was part of another study by Facebook and if so, they didn’t get the full picture that they would have if they’d been upfront about it, got my consent, and were able to ask me questions later about my thought process.

There is no doubt that we will see more discussions of ethics and consent in the space of user testing, especially as it relates to consumer-facing health applications. Having no regulation or guidelines is not good for consumer. However, only doing research with IRB and third party researchers is also not good for the consumer as innovation that could really help them can be slowed dramatically. Most people, whether healthcare practitioners or entrepreneurs got into the space because they wanted to help people. If we remember this, and we consider the ethical implications of our actions, we should be able to balance the two worlds.

For more reading on this topic as it applies to the software industry, see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A/B_testing

http://ai.stanford.edu/~ronnyk/2009controlledExperimentsOnTheWebSurvey.pdf

http://www.exp-platform.com/Pages/expMicrosoft.aspx

Posted in: Behavior Change, Data Protection, Health Regulations, Healthcare motivation, Healthcare Social Media, Healthcare Technology, M-health

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Social Media Tips for Healthcare Professionals

In 2009, Google launched its Flu Tracker application to map the spread of infectious disease by monitoring search keywords by geography. More recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins claimed that they could track the spread of the flu using Twitter significantly faster than the CDC could predict. Its like the town crier amplified by a million. Individually, there have been examples of doctors learning more about their patients on social media that has lead to either diagnosis, or follow-up visits. In previous posts we explored how social media can play a role in recovery for patients. Now, we’ll take a look at social media for healthcare professionals.

Ways in which healthcare practitioners can benefit from social media:

icanhazpdf

icanhazpdf hashtag for finding research documents

  • Research. There is a ton of information being shared through social media, including studies that might be otherwise hard to find. Did you know there’s a Twitter hashtag where you can ask for a publication? If someone in your network has a copy that is allowed to be shared, you can usually find it. #icanhazpdf
  • Connect with your peers. There are people from all over the world participating in conversations about treatments and best practices.
  • Connect with your clients and potential clients. Social media is an easy, and inexpensive marketing and patient engagement tool.

A few simple Do’s and Don’ts for healthcare practitioners for engaging on social media:

Do

  • Do: Use social media to build your reputation and practice. Can patients and potential patients find you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn? Can patients who love you easily recommend your services? The Mayo clinic offers a course in social media for healthcare practitioners. They also monitor which social media sites are used by healthcare organizations
  • Do: Use social media to research, connect with your peers, and spread best practices. Did you know that there’s a weekly Twitter chat where physical therapists discuss business issues related to their profession? Tune in to #solvePT at 9PM EST to see what it’s about.
  • Do: Take advantage of the immediacy of social media. Jointworks Chiropractics, for example, uses Twitter to fill last-minute cancellations.
  • Do: Start slowly. Managing social media can take a lot of time. Make sure you know how you want to participate. Start by watching what similar practices or people are doing.
  • Do: Keep learning. The methods of communication are changing constantly and are going to keep evolving.

Don’t

  • Don’t: Ever share patient identifiable information on social media. If you learn something helpful about a patient on social media, follow up privately. An individual can share whatever they like about their health, but you cannot, so even if they post something on your Facebook page, you still need to answer privately. Even email may not be private enough for HIPAA standards. All communication needs to be encrypted. 
  • Don’t: Share information about yourself on public networks that you wouldn’t want patients or colleagues to know
  • Don’t: Criticize patients on social media. Yes, they can rate you and criticize you, but it doesn’t go both ways.
  • Don’t: Be afraid to show some of your personality. It will help patients connect with you and you might have more effective visits.
  • Don’t:  Underestimate the impact that social media has and will have on health.

If you’re interested in this topic, here are a few additional articles you might want to take a look at.

Should Doctors and Patients Be Friends? from the Wall Street Journal

A survey of physicians last May by Epocrates inc., which develops medical reference apps for physicians, found that 82% were using social networks to engage with other physicians, while just 8% were doing so with patients.

Teenagers, Social Media, and Health Information Privacy from ihealthbeat.org

Teens “do not seem to associate their personal identity with their diagnosis. They identify who they are by their friends, school, interests, etc. It is in this context that some of them mentioned that they don’t talk about their diagnosis or treatment on Facebook because they don’t want to be perceived as ‘attention-seekers,

How Facebook is Transforming Science and Public Health from Wired

The logic is a simple one: Everyone on Facebook, all 1 billion-plus people, will have an illness at some point in their lives. And, as Facebook’s social creatures are in the habit of doing, that mass of people will share their experience battling disease, ask questions of their friends, and field advice from outsiders

 

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media, Uncategorized

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Marketing Physical Therapy

At Wellpepper, we’ve been surprised about the amount of effort physical therapists need to do to promote their services and profession. We’ve had great personal experiences with physical therapy ranging from sports injury recovery, chronic illness recovery and management, and pediatric developmental support. To us, it was a bit of a no-brainer that physical therapy works. The more time we spend with the community though, we realize there’s a lot more work to do. On that note, we’d like to highlight some great marketing of the profession that we’ve seen.

One of the most impressive is the award-winning campaign “Moving for Life” from the British Columbia Association of Physical Therapists. Here’s the television spot that was launched in 2011.

The campaign works for two reasons, it connects the general public to the profession and to what physical therapists can do for them, and it introduces physical therapists as professionals and people. The Facebook portion of the campaign shows physical therapists out enjoying all the wondrous nature that British Columbia has to offer, while providing tips for staying safe and fit during physical activity.

Why I Became a Physio

Why I Became a Physio from Physical Therapy Association of BC

We know that physical therapist are happy in their profession, but this campaign takes it one step further by introducing reasons why people are inspired to be physical therapists.

One caveat, of course, is that people in BC have direct access to physical therapists, so the customer for therapy is the consumer, not a doctor who is providing referrals. The campaign would probably look very different if it were aimed at convincing doctors to send therapy referrals. Also, with the abundance of nature and the resource-based economy, BC has a very active population who tend to be more familiar with the benefits of physical therapy and want to get back to work and play faster.

What great examples have you seen? What do you wish your local association was doing for you?

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media, Rehabilitation Business, Uncategorized

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A Short Burst of Inconsequential Information?

…we came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was.
– Jack Dorsey[18]

Twitter may have been conceived as being inconsequential, but hard to say that now. Major news now breaks on Twitter, often significantly before other news outlets. For brands, Twitter is a great way to connect with customers, often to deal with customer service issues. Modern businesses should ignore Twitter at their own peril.

Healthcare Tweetchat Statistics, source Symplur

Healthcare Tweetchat Statistics, source Symplur

At Wellpepper, we’ve found great value in Twitter, especially in the many weekly chats about healthcare. We’ve been able to ask questions of potential customers that help define our product direction. We’ve learned more about the priorities of our customers and how we might be able to support them. We’ve learned best practices from others in the m-health space, and been able to stay on top of new developments. We’ve been able to validate assumptions about our direction. All this from participating  in real-time chat.

For healthcare practitioners, tweet chats are an opportunity to talk to like-minded peers, learn about new techniques or research, or sometimes vent. Many chats have regulars and a community forms around the topic.

For those wondering how it works: a topic is posted in advance, and a moderator asks a series of questions about that topic. Usually not more than 5 questions for an hour-long chat. People then answer the questions using the chat hashtag, and sometimes the question number. At this point, the comments, questions, and follow-on threads often start flying fast and furious. You can use a browser sorted on the hashtag to follow the chat, however, using a Twitter client,  can sometimes make it easier to follow the conversation.

Runkeeper Tweet Chat #rkchat

Runkeeper Tweet Chat #rkchat

Chats to check out:

  • Runkeeper holds a weekly customer feedback chat. It provides interesting insight into people who are using self-tracking tools. Hashtag: #RKChat. It’s also a great example of a company engaging with their fan/customer base. 
  • #SolvePT discusses issues related to the business of physical therapy and improving the profession overall. The next chat is a topic dear to our hearts: technology and physical therapy.
  • Harvard Business Review runs chats on specific topics of interest to leadership and business development. These are particularly well moderated chats that are easy to follow. If you’re thinking of starting your own Tweetchat, we recommend attending a few for best practices. Hashtag: #HBRchat
  • #HCSM is a slightly self-referential chat: social media discussion about social media. It’s a good one to talk about the adoption and issues of social media in healthcare, a topic we’ve blogged about a few times.

Our biggest issue with Healthcare Tweetchats is that there are too many of them. A person could easily spend all of his or her time chatting and never get anything done. Add to that the fact that chats originate in every timezone and you could be chatting 24 hours a day. The sheer number of discussions going on every day can also contribute to a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) that Twitter seems to thrive on.

Symplur has a complete list of all healthcare tweet chats listed by time and with an overview of the topic. Enjoy and chat with you soon!

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media

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Social Media Tips for Healthcare Professionals

In 2009, Google launched its Flu Tracker application to map the spread of infectious disease by monitoring search keywords by geography. More recently, researchers at Johns Hopkins claimed that they could track the spread of the flu using Twitter significantly faster than the CDC could predict. Its like the town crier amplified by a million. Individually, there have been examples of doctors learning more about their patients on social media that has lead to either diagnosis, or follow-up visits. In previous posts we explored how social media can play a role in recovery for patients. Now, we’ll take a look at social media for healthcare professionals.

Ways in which healthcare practitioners can benefit from social media:

icanhazpdf

icanhazpdf hashtag for finding research documents

  • Research. There is a ton of information being shared through social media, including studies that might be otherwise hard to find. Did you know there’s a Twitter hashtag where you can ask for a publication? If someone in your network has a copy that is allowed to be shared, you can usually find it. #icanhazpdf
  • Connect with your peers. There are people from all over the world participating in conversations about treatments and best practices.
  • Connect with your clients and potential clients. Social media is an easy, and inexpensive marketing and patient engagement tool.

A few simple Do’s and Don’ts for healthcare practitioners for engaging on social media:

Do

  • Do: Use social media to build your reputation and practice. Can patients and potential patients find you on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn? Can patients who love you easily recommend your services? The Mayo clinic offers a course in social media for healthcare practitioners. They also monitor which social media sites are used by healthcare organizations
  • Do: Use social media to research, connect with your peers, and spread best practices. Did you know that there’s a weekly Twitter chat where physical therapists discuss business issues related to their profession? Tune in to #solvePT at 9PM EST to see what it’s about.
  • Do: Take advantage of the immediacy of social media. Jointworks Chiropractics, for example, uses Twitter to fill last-minute cancellations.
  • Do: Start slowly. Managing social media can take a lot of time. Make sure you know how you want to participate. Start by watching what similar practices or people are doing.
  • Do: Keep learning. The methods of communication are changing constantly and are going to keep evolving.

Don’t

  • Don’t: Ever share patient identifiable information on social media. If you learn something helpful about a patient on social media, follow up privately. An individual can share whatever they like about their health, but you cannot, so even if they post something on your Facebook page, you still need to answer privately. Even email may not be private enough for HIPAA standards. All communication needs to be encrypted. 
  • Don’t: Share information about yourself on public networks that you wouldn’t want patients or colleagues to know
  • Don’t: Criticize patients on social media. Yes, they can rate you and criticize you, but it doesn’t go both ways.
  • Don’t: Be afraid to show some of your personality. It will help patients connect with you and you might have more effective visits.
  • Don’t:  Underestimate the impact that social media has and will have on health.

If you’re interested in this topic, here are a few additional articles you might want to take a look at.

Should Doctors and Patients Be Friends? from the Wall Street Journal

A survey of physicians last May by Epocrates inc., which develops medical reference apps for physicians, found that 82% were using social networks to engage with other physicians, while just 8% were doing so with patients.

Teenagers, Social Media, and Health Information Privacy from ihealthbeat.org

Teens “do not seem to associate their personal identity with their diagnosis. They identify who they are by their friends, school, interests, etc. It is in this context that some of them mentioned that they don’t talk about their diagnosis or treatment on Facebook because they don’t want to be perceived as ‘attention-seekers,

How Facebook is Transforming Science and Public Health from Wired

The logic is a simple one: Everyone on Facebook, all 1 billion-plus people, will have an illness at some point in their lives. And, as Facebook’s social creatures are in the habit of doing, that mass of people will share their experience battling disease, ask questions of their friends, and field advice from outsiders

 

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media

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Social Media Support and Recovery, the Patient’s Perspective

In the year 2000, I injured my neck playing softball for the University of Massachusetts. I remember it clearly, we were playing Boston College and I dove for a line drive in the outfield. I made the catch and got up to start making my way off the field and collapsed. It was the last play I made in a UMass uniform.

Dealing with the pain of the injury and the disappointment of not being able to play were one thing, but the hardest part turned out to be the isolation of rehabilitation. While my teammates were heading to class, training and travelling to games, I was visiting doctors, surgeons, and physical therapists. I had lost my routine, stress relief through physical activity and social group all at once and to top it off I was 2000 miles from home. It was before everyone had a cell phone, before social media and I felt very alone in my recovery.

Facebook now boasts 900 million users, and is posed to reach 1 billion users soon. Twitter is estimated to have more than 500 million users. With this many users, communities within communities have developed in each social network. These communities have served to fill a void in the lives of people who face health problems, satisfying the universal human desire to know ‘you are not alone.’ The Empowered Patient: 5 ways Social Media Makes Patients Stronger.

Two months ago a close friend of mine tore her Achilles’ tendon while playing tennis. She is a very active individual and her social life revolves mainly around the activity clubs she belongs to. I found out about her injury via a Facebook post. Throughout the past eight weeks she has posted updates on her rehab progress. Updates ranged from her progress at physical therapy, to who popped by for a visit and boosted her spirits, to how her incision was healing. And though I could have gone without the pictures of the surgery incision, I have appreciated the honesty and raw emotion behind her posts.  Facebook has allowed her to keep in close contact with her support system even though she can’t make it to the tennis court 3 times a week.  It has also allowed me as a friend who lives in another province the ability to keep up to date and support her even if it is with a “like” or a small comment here or there.

lvohn Even professional athletes flock to social media for additional support. Olympic and World Cup skier, Lindsey Vohn recently announced on Facebook that her knee surgery went well and took the opportunity to thank her family, friends and fans for all their support.

The Internet can be so powerful in the way that it connects people, educates them on their illness or injury and empowers them to take charge of their recovery. People can now share their experiences with strangers who have the same injuries or illnesses, research their own treatment options or even become advocates for others long after they have recovered.

I can only imagine how much social networks such as Facebook or Twitter would have helped me had they been around while I was recovering from my injury. Perhaps I could have continued at UMass rather then head home to rehabilitate? Hard to say. However, I do know that I will continue to encourage family and friends to use social media as a tool to interact, learn, and take charge of their overall health.

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media

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Can social media be good for your health?

Is posting or tweeting about your health a good idea? We think so, if you do it right.

Social support has been shown to be a key factor in encouraging exercise and healthy behavior. With geographically dispersed families and friends and extremely busy lifestyles, sometimes social networks like Facebook or Twitter provide that social engagement that would have previously been in person. As a result, people are sharing more and more about their health on social networks, as shown by a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study that asked which health-related activities people had done on social media.

Have you done any of these heath related activities on social media?

Have you done any of these heath related activities on social media?

The study also found that younger people were more likely to share health information through social sites. 80% of 18-24 year olds compared to 45% of 45-64 year olds.

When we were first planning Wellpepper, we thought that sharing physical therapy progress on Facebook and Twitter could have positive benefits for patients like receiving encouragement from friends and keeping people up to date. We wondered whether anyone would actually do it though, until we saw a friend who is a concert photographer with 1,300 friends posting on Facebook about his recovery from a dislocated shoulder. He wanted to let people know what happened, how he was doing, and why they might not see him around for a bit. In return, he received well wishes and support from many people.

In our user testing, we’ve found that being able to share on Facebook and Twitter is a motivating factor. For some, it helps keep them honest about doing their exercises. Also, it enables them to provide kudos to their therapist for the treatment and recommend that therapist or clinic to others. We’ve noticed that some therapists become popular within social groups like amateur teams, and Facebook is another way to share a good recommendation.

Considerations for sharing

Sharing a status update on Facebook is more like whispering to a group of your friends in the back of the auditorium. You’re talking specifically to people who know you, who (hopefully) like you. A few of them will hear what you say, some will respond, some will offer their own stories in relation to what you have shared. You like them too and you probably care what they think about you. http://rellacafa.com/is-posting-about-health-on-facebook-ok/

Great advice assuming you’ve set your Facebook privacy options right. Facebook privacy isn’t the easiest thing to set, and it’s changing all the time but you can limit your posts to groups and to your friends only. This means your posts aren’t in the public domain. However, also remember that Facebook does tend to change their privacy options frequently.

Facebook Privacy

Facebook Privacy set to “Friends Only”

So before you go off and share all kinds of information consider this:

  • Who do I want to see it?
  • What do I want to share?
  • Is there some reason not to share this information?

IMG_0248 We think that sharing can signify to your friends that you want their help and support in your recovery and it’s generally a good thing. (Most examples of sharing gone wrong are due to someone trying to do something they shouldn’t, like vacationing in Mexico while on disability leave. We don’t condone this at all at Wellpepper but we are also not going to publish the location you’re doing your exercises.)

The important thing is that you’re in control of whether, where, and what you post. Even if you’re not using Wellpepper, consider posting something about your health to your friends, you might be surprised at the result.

We believe this trend is going to continue, hopefully, with wise decisions about what is shared and not shared. In a future blog post, we’ll tackle the larger issue of healthcare and social media: patient/provider communication.

Posted in: Healthcare Social Media

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