According to a recent study by marketing firm Russell Herder from Minneapolis, patients are more likely to share information about their diagnosis these days. The research emphasizes that this is an enormous opportunity for healthcare providers to support patients and provide them with helpful online tools to communicate.
Researchers based their results on Facebook, Twitter, different forum and blog posts shared by almost 63.000 users. The most popular platforms for disclosing information about health related information or a diagnosis were blogs with more than 50 percent of the posts. Blogs were followed by message boards where 30 percent of diagnosis related information was disclosed. Both Facebook and Twitter had 7 percent of the posts observed. These lower percentages could be the result of more private profile settings.
40 percent of the health related information shared was in connection with cancer, while there was a high rate of diabetic patients disclosing their diagnosis. 10 percent shared information about chronic fatigue, 5 percent about asthma, STDs and AIDS.
The study points out that with so many patients looking for support online from their families, friends and patients similar to them, and with so many of them sharing their diagnosis, healthcare providers have the opportunity to reach out to these patients and connect with them online. “Given the growing demand for online access to health-related information and support, hospitals, clinics, and organizations should ensure they are providing the social media and website resources their patients and prospects are seeking.”
Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on Health Populi gives a very detailed analysis of the study stating that this level of sharing health related information on social media platforms shows how far we have come and how “more people are feeling more engaged in their health.” And while I do think that sharing a diagnosis is a first step of patient engagement, I also think being engaged in our health is more than that. It also involves asking for or providing help in a community of other patients, interacting with them, getting informed and helping to get informed. I think patients sharing their diagnosis shows more how our communication and actions moved online, from the close circles of family and friends to a wide group of people, how self-expression took an overly social form.