Posted April 9, 2010 7:02 pm by with 3 comments

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40% of online consumers turn to social media in managing their health, according to a new survey by Epsilon. 80% of those engaging with social media in their health care are “the highly engaged patient[s] who [take] an active role in health management.”

However, most people using social media for healthcare aren’t asking Dr. Twitter for a diagnosis. First and foremost, they’re looking for connections, says Epsilon:

  • Emotional needs are primary. Many healthcare social media users want reassurance, support, and a sense of intimacy from people who are going through a similar experience;
  • Rational needs are secondary, but also important. Social media users are searching for foundational information about their specific conditions and symptoms, information about drugs and supplements, and the latest health news.

For the 60% who don’t participate in social media, they most often cited relying on a doctor’s advice as the reason. (I assume they mean they’re satisfied with the doctor’s advice, and not that the doctor advised them not to go online.) Lack of time and trust in social media were other popular reasons.

And the usual suspects when it comes to social media aren’t the top choices here. “Third party health-related sites are the most important destinations for both social and editorial content,” Epsilon says, “but their level of credibility varies.” The survey indicated that governmental and NGO endorsements would increase their trust. Epsilon lists the ADA and the FDA as examples. (Ha! If only people knew what a racket some of those places are.) However, “Many people have mixed feelings about how pharmaceutical companies should participate in websites and social media—but most are open to some level of participation, as long as it is transparently disclosed.”

What do you think? Do you turn to social media for health care concerns? Would you be more likely to do so with FDA etc. approval on these sites?

  • Yeah. When I said to my real, flesh and blood doc “According to Dr. Google..” he smiled and responded, “Oh really? Where’d he go to med school?” Nice reminder.

  • Yes, more and more people are using social media for asking questions related to their health. But this is not necessarily the best thing I would say. Some may ask for advice from wrong persons.

  • There are a number of incredible support groups for people with different medical conditions on FaceBook. I know people who have gained quality information, and learned about alternatives they would never have considered, if not for being involved in that community.