Social Media and Health information: the Wild West?
A study last year from Harvard with Brigham and Women’s Hospital deemed social networks the “Wild West” when it comes to health information. (…)
But the study also found that social networks really serve a purpose in healthcare today: the ability to learn from others with similar experiences. (…)
Consumers are increasingly moving toward being empowered patients. Manhattan Research reports that 99 million consumers have reached that status, meaning they’ve participated in health-related activities online. The firm has found that about 46 percent of these patients have changed health decisions due to information found online, and almost 28 percent have asked to change a prescription or treatment based on online information. (…)
Pew’s Internet and American Life Project this month found 66 percent of Internet users look for information on specific diseases and conditions. With Facebook, consumers can reach out to friends and family with these questions; on sites like MedHelp, which form communities around conditions, you can ask someone with first-hand experience. (…)
Consumers aren’t the only ones sharing information. Many hospitals, doctors, OTC medicines, and pharma brands have a presence on social networks.
A “Wild West” atmosphere can develop if the pages aren’t continually monitored. Consumers are turning to branded Facebook pages to get information. (…)
So where does this leave us?
Consumers are flocking to social networks, and searching for health information. But, before jumping to create a social network presence, brands and organizations must put steps in place to ensure the pages are monitored to prevent misinformation, and to ensure content complies with regulations.
The Wild West? Not exactly, as these networks are helping informed consumers get information from trusted sources and from each other.
Social networks can be invaluable for helping consumers with healthcare decisions, and also brand awareness for health practitioners, organizations and treatments — as long as it’s done right.
Stephens, Dean. Social Networks and Health: bad medicine? SearchEngineWatch, Online: Feb. 20, 2011.