Social Media in Health – How do we navigate this vast divide ?

If it were only this easy … and perhaps someday it will be but until then ….

Social media in health or healthcare specifically, is about as diverse a topic and as viral as the measles.  I don’t mean to imply it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certainly contagious.  Contagious in the sense that once we start down the path of tracking down health related social media engagement tools, we are, in essence, falling into a rabbit hole as vast as the grand canyon.

Where to Begin

Well, if your a patient, you might start with websites that connect you others that share a commonality with you such as a common disease or condition.  These sites specialize in connecting, through social contribution, one another going through a shared experience or procedure.  One of the most recent, or at least within the past few years that’s gaining a lot of traction is:

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Others attempt to connect individuals through their genetic identity.  By doing so, you can not only find out hereditary information based on your own personal genetic profile, but you’ll be linked to others that share a percentage of your DNA.  By doing so, you grow your ‘family tree’ if you will – virtually and well …. genetically.  These social engineering sites, as I like to call them, require you to submit a sample of your saliva which in turn is tested and analyzed against a database that will provide you with a literal trail of genetic breadcrumbs over which you can comb for hours looking for ancestors.  It is called:

Perhaps most simply, facebook-health, which we all know and love, has become a hallmark in our repertoire of social media sites as they relate to health and otherwise.  This was actually new to me.  I understood that Facebook had broadened the umbrella under which it was originally intended but it was only after my discussion ( submitted video interview ) with Ross Friedberg, general council for Doctors on Demand, that I truly realized the impact Facebook has made through the creation of online forums with which to connect patients and providers.  In this interview, Ross discusses both the legal and regulatory ramifications this creates.  Doctors on Demand is a Telehealth platform used to connect patients with providers instantaneously through a proprietary application on their smartphone or other internet connected device.

Lastly, and I know I’ve referenced them before in my prior post, RockHealth has become my personal health site du jour if you will.   They provide a weekly subscription service that alerts and distributes updates in healthcare, specifically as they relate to the startup industry in silicon valley.  It’s a personal favorite of mine and one that I subscribe to in an attempt to capture some small glimpse of what is happening in the world of healthIT.   They can be found here:


3 thoughts on “Social Media in Health – How do we navigate this vast divide ?

  1. Hi Mark, thank you for your post!! I really enjoyed reading it. I think you did a great job of linking to various websites, and i especially liked how you referred to ideas in your previous posts. I was bummed that I couldn’t see your video interview though. I think you set it up as a private video, so I needed a password to watch. What do you think about expanding your post to include health sites that we should NOT visit? Since the internet and the amount of information on there can be both a blessing and a curse, it would be great to list sites that should be avoided, because they a). provide incorrect information, or b) provide information that is not from a reliable source. As a doctor, I am sure you have met people who have diagnosed themselves prior to coming to you with what “they read on the internet”, and are basically looking for you to confirm their diagnosis. Although sometimes that can be useful, i am sure there could be times when this approach creates more harm than good. A website that I personally really don’t like, although it is a favorite of some, is webMD. The reason I don’t like it is because the information they provide is often too broad and can be easily misinterpreted. They sort of remind me of the warning labels that are put on Tylenol bottles, which say that symptoms can include anything from headache to death, basically everything under the sun. Do you think discussing such websites would be useful for the public?

    • Luda,

      Thanks so much for your note and kind words re: the post. I agree in that it would be nice to include a few ‘Don’t Visit’ sites. I’ll see what I can do in terms of compiling a list of perhaps 4-5 sites that are poorly credentialed and provide non-peer-reviewed data. Yes, plenty of patients consider themselves Dr. Google. It is scary, however, that Google happens to be right about 50% of the time last I checked. Although doctors will never be replaced by computers, IBM is doing some fascinating stuff with predicative analytics and WATSON.

  2. Hi Mark,

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing! I like how you’ve pointed us in the direction of some interesting websites that show how social media can be used in the healthcare domain. It seems like this is really a hot topic because the general public is getting more and more into the business of “self-diagnosis”. But of course there is also a lot of great information available online and when taken in context, it can be quite useful!

    I think that it’s awesome that the logos for the sites that you’ve featured on your blog are actually hyperlinks! I didn’t realize until I clicked on the logos accidentally that they take you right to the company’s websites. I guess this is a feature in WordPress that I wasn’t aware of. I also think that it was a great idea to include a link to your video production within your blog. I, too, noticed like Luda that it’s a private video. I would have liked to hear your interview with Ross Friedberg to learn a bit more about this new type of Telehealth service.

    You did a great job in highlighting some of the new and innovative ways in which physicians can communicate effectively with their patients. One thing that I learned through conversation with the communications lead at my place of work is that it’s important to keep up with the times and the most latest trends in order to cater to the needs of people. Since so many people are on Facebook and Twitter now, many public health organizations have created accounts which is a very strategic step to take towards marrying the ideas of communicating public health messages and digital innovation.

    When I looked at the PatientsLikeMe, 23andme and RockHealth websites, I noticed that both 23andme and RockHealth are using social media tools and have included links to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ on their websites but it seems that PatientsLikeMe does not make use of any social media tools. Or at least they have not included links to them on their website. I noticed that they have a blog and it seems that one of the purposes of having a web-based platform is so that people can connect with one another and share stories and experiences. I would be interested to learn about why PatientsLikeMe have not jumped on the bandwagon of using social media, especially since one of their focuses is to help people “connect with people like you”.

    Here’s the links to the “Big Three” (Mansfield’s terminology for the most widely used social media tools in her book “Social Media for Social Good”) on the websites for 23andme and RockHealth:



    At first glance, it looks like followers on 23andme use Twitter to talk about customer service related topics as well as scientific discussions (i.e. studies in which genetic origins of Americans are being discussed). In general, it seems like a great “go-to-place” for followers who are either using/interested in their services or who are interested in genetics research.

    According to Mansfield, it is important to be consistent when reserving vanity URLs. It is evident that 23andme made sure to stay consist when they reserved their vanity URLs for the “Big Three” social media platforms. However, it seems that RockHealth did not take a similar approach. Perhaps the URLs of their first choice were not available when they tried to reserve them.

    Once again, great post Mark. The only suggestion that I would make is to feature some of the social media tools that these companies/organizations use to communicate within their social networks. I’m sure your video did a great job of this, as it seems that your interviewee spoke about Facebook and specifically the legal and regulatory ramifications of using this social media platform. This is an interesting angle to introduce into the discussion of using social media in health care!

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