Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
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Can Social Media Expand the Audience For Medical Research Articles

Can Social Media Expand the Audience For Medical Research Articles | Social Media and Healthcare | Scoop.it
The use of social media tools, for the purpose of releasing an article in the clinical pain sciences, increases the number of views and downloads


The use of social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and ResearchBlogging.org – for the purpose of releasing an article in the clinical pain sciences increases the number of people who view the article and download it. Social media tools also have implications for the dissemination of medical research articles in other fields.


Problem


Generally, anyone interested in accessing research articles either utilizes a research database such as Pubmed or simply follows a few specific journals. As a result, many articles go unnoticed because end users who could benefit from them lack the time to find them. In addition, those who have time to search these databases may be overwhelmed with lots of articles that are not relevant to their needs.


Approach to Address Problem


The researchers selected 16 PLOS ONE articles using four inclusion criteria relevant to the clinical pain sciences, first published online between 2006 and 2011, of interest to readers of a research group blog (bodyinmind.org), and not previously mentioned in a blog post on bodyinmind.org. The articles were assigned randomly to four researchers who wrote blog posts on them, comprised of approximately 500 words and a link to the online version of the article. These blog posts were randomly assigned two dates: one date for a social media release and one date as a control. The control is not well explained by the researchers and appears to represent a period where nothing is being done to promote the article.

Innovation


The key innovation in this research project was the use of social media to push research information to end users instead of waiting on the end users to “pull” the information from a database.


Key Results


The key result was a statistically significant increase in HTML views and PDF downloads one week after the blog posts when comparing the control date and the social media release date  (p < .05). However, none of the measures of social media reach, engagement, or virality related to the outcome variable. Hence, some other unknown factors are affecting HTML views and PDF downloads.


Implications for clinicians/health care system


Better dissemination of research can save clinicians time by improving the efficiency of information uptake by them. This is useful for health care systems because this is one of the many ways that a health system can improve its quality. One of the challenges is making sure that the information coming from social media is well catered to the needs of clinicians.


Implications for public health

Improved dissemination of research could also provide benefits to the public. In the case of patients or lay individuals, social media can be used to send not only research articles, but lay translations of the information in order to increase the probability of more people understanding the information. This can contribute to increasing health literacy of individuals.
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Facebook, a legitimate source of data for medical research?

Facebook, a legitimate source of data for medical research? | Social Media and Healthcare | Scoop.it

A recent study highlights the opportunities which online social networks may provide to analyze the impact of social behavior on health outcomes such as the prevalence of obesity.

 

For several years researchers have been trying to find the causes of obesity, aside from any genetic predisposition. Our social environment is regarded as one of the decisive factors overall. For example, families living in deprived circumstances are often prone to obesity because, it is argued, cheaper food is often more fatty and sugary –although this supposed causal link still remains controversial. Such studies have their limitations, since there is relatively little reliable information available on people’s physical activities and dietary habits. However, there is today one source, though rather unconventional as regards public health studies, which can provide a wealth of data: Facebook. Recently four researchers from Harvard Medical School, working together with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance– an ongoing telephone health survey system – and NYC EpiQuery systems, a web-based system designed to provide health data from a variety of sources, set out to examine the relationship between Facebook users’ ‘likes’ and their weight*.

 

Studying populations through the lens of social networks

This is one of the first attempts to study the health of a population by extracting data from online social networks. Recently, another online study, carried out via social networks among 61 million people, which looked at the influence of messages on voting patterns, has already demonstrated the potential of social networks for this type of study. Such networks provide a new source of usable data and Facebook is one of the most useful tools since users tend to volunteer information on their surroundings, origins, background and personal interests.  Moreover, the sheer size of the network in terms of its user base is an argument in itself for using this data source. In the United States, half the population is active on Facebook, as is one person in eight worldwide. The study on obesity analyzed Facebook users’ ‘likes’, broadly categorizing them under "health and fitness" and "outdoor physical activities" as an indication of being physically active, and "television" as a marker for a sedentary lifestyle. The study reveals that in the US as a whole there is one clear link between Facebook users’ ‘likes’ and obesity: in any given area of the country, a greater proportion of people with activity-related Facebook interests and a smaller proportion who like television appears to be correlated with a lower prevalence of obesity.

 

Gathering data on public health

The major increase in obesity on a global scale suggests that a person’s social environment says a lot about his/her health. Many studies have already examined the relationship between people being overweight and their immediate environment. For example, in places where there is less opportunity for people to walk, we find higher rates of obesity. Beyond the physical environment, this study now shows that people’s social environment may also be linked to obesity. There are many variables – among them common interests, whether active or sedentary – which make it easier to pinpoint populations at risk. Up to now, obtaining data relating to the social environment of these populations has been costly and slow, and the process difficult to carry out across a large population. The availability of online social network data for this type of study therefore seems to have come at the right moment.  Further research is now needed to better understand how the online social environment actually relates to health outcomes and how it can be used to identify when action is needed or target specific interventions.

 

*‘Assessing the Online Social Environment for Surveillance of Obesity Prevalence’ by Rumi Chunara, Lindsay Bouton, John W. Ayers and John S. Brownstein

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