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Recently, Health 2.0 reported that 34 percent of Americans turn to social media for health research. Their information, based upon an iCrossing report, shows that consumers choose Wikipedia, online forums and message boards as their most favored resources for information. Additionally, while these users are looking for answers, they also seek support and interaction.
Interaction is what makes social media a bit different than Web 2.0. While Web 2.0 provides the tools for interaction between a user and a Web site, it may not provide the interaction required for a true “social” experience between the user and other users or site participants. For instance, teens and some adults who have disabilities and diseases such as cancer already use social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.com to connect with peers.
Social media is not “top down” information with little to no interaction. While government groups struggle to impart information such as the latest news about tainted peanut butter products through blogs, Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools, others know that this isn’t enough. When you impart information, you also must respond. It is the era of the consumer, and the consumer is in control.
While some government groups still struggle with social interaction, many grassroots groups and visionaries ‘get it.’ The following 25 sites — among many dozens of other consumer-oriented social media sites — provide venues for patients, advocates, medical personnel, and others to interact on a level playing field. These tools allow news to flow freely, collaboration to become second-nature and support to become as pandemic as the diseases that threaten today’s populations.
The following sites are listed alphabetically under each category. This methodology shows that we do not favor one site over another. Instead of top-down news and information, these sites provide information based upon user-generated input. You can read the latest news about any medical condition or offer and receive support and advice at these sites.
News and Information
Healthranker: Health Ranker was founded by Israel Lagares and the main contributor to this health news site is Dr. Kalvin Chinyere. Both men are dedicated to making Healthranker the number one social media health news site. Its success depends upon you, however, as users are encourages to submit health news and articles from medical information publishers to health care bloggers to main stream media news sites.
OrganizedWisdom: This site launched in 2006, and has become a keystone social media site for health information. Organized Wisdom provides hand-crafted search result pages called WisdomCards for the most popular health search terms and phrases. Users can become guides and make money while helping others find information on this site and to create WisdomCards. OrganizedWisdom was named to PC Magazines “Top Web sites of 2008″ for bringing innovation to online health care.
PeoplesMD: PeoplesMD is the first niche social bookmarking site exclusively for the health and wellness category. Share your online health research and help others when you bookmark your favorite articles, blogs and Web sites and store them here in “Stacks.” These bookmarks are turned into visual collections for your own use and to help others find information.
Trusera: Seattle startup Trusera built a strong community while in testing mode in 2008, and founder Keith Schorsch says his site is more focused on practical advice than the competition. Schorsch, a former Amazon executive, says he was spurred to start the company after his struggle with Lyme disease. At Trusera, you can pose questions to people who’ve been there and get practical answers and insights from others just like you.
Plenty of sites offer tools for fitness, but the true test of a social media fitness site is interaction among users and experts. The following sites can provide this support, along with the tools you need to meet your fitness goals.
FitLink: Keep a workout journal, map running or cycling routes, plan activities, research exercises, calculate your body mass index, and read fitness articles. But, you don’t need to do it alone. You also can find activity partners, training groups, personal trainers, health clubs, fitness centers and even local events based upon your goals and interests.
GIMME20: Gimme20.com is an online fitness tool that provides users with community, workout routines, and the ability to track workouts and share workout routines with others in the community. You can report fitness results from the gym with their mobile phones, too.
GymClik: This site is new, but looks promising. Join for free and get in on the ground floor to develop or join groups in tune with your goals. Additionally, you can add your favorite recipes, find a local trainer, share videos and images and more.
Gyminee: You’ll discover detailed workout tracking, a way to monitor your diet, the ability to meet others with similar goals, online accountability and motivation through friends, groups and communities at Gyminee. This interaction may be what you need to reach your goals.
introPLAY: Join as a player and find other athletes who train together as part of the introPLAY community. This site may seem intimidating, but it’s for both casual and committed athletes who want tools to track sports activities, health information and more from a truly interactive community.
iStats: After you complete a workout such as a run, gym, soccer game or training simply enter the details of the workout (reps, weight, time etc.). Select from Imperial or Metric. Create your own exercise if you can’t find it. Review your workouts and invite friends to create exercise teams so you can work out together, share tips and compare results.
Limeade: This tool allows you to assess 28 dimensions of your life scientifically correlated with well-being, recommends personalized goals, and helps you achieve those goals with step-by-step tracking, programs and support from experts and friends.
PeerTrainer: This site will help you become accountable for yourself, supported by others in small online groups and teams. Take advantage of their Calorie Wiki, health, fitness and diet content and more. Join supportive communities and groups and share your wisdom as well.
Traineo: Get in on the ground floor with a site that is geared to make fitness simple. Use their tools to log your activity and diet and take advantage of community-building to snag some support for your goals. Choose among groups that challenge obstacles such as diabetes or that are built upon family support. If nothing seems to fit you, you can create your own group.
Patient Activism, Peer Care
The following sites provide users with real-time social interaction. You can receive home care, find a peer group for support, become an activist in national health care reform and more. These sites truly are social, providing ‘meeting places’ for patients, medical professionals and visionaries.
American Well: This is the nation’s first online house call program. This site provides a truly interactive setting, where patients find doctors who will treat you from a distance. American Well is committed to supporting health plans in meeting consumer and employer demand for affordable, efficient, and immediate access to quality care.
Daily Strength: Patients and caregivers dealing with hundreds of issues, including asthma, celiac disease and depression, can join a support community, start a wellness journal, share advice and recommend doctors, link to news stories and Web sites with disease information. You can send other members a virtual hug while you’re there.
Group Loop: Group Loop bills itself as a safe place for teens with cancer and their parents to build online community for support, education and hope while dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Teens can talk with other teens, parents with parents so teens can learn how to cope with daily life and this disease.
Health 2.0: This wiki is set up to serve “the community of visionaries, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, policy makers, and professionals who are working on fundamentally redefining the healthcare industry along the lines of ‘Web 2.0.’” Don’t let the labels turn you off — this site is open for discussion. Take the challenge.
Mamaherb: At Mamaherb, people from all over the world can share their knowledge about herbs and other natural substances they’ve experienced as helpful, or even been tipped off about by their family members, friends, or even by their grandma. Join community to learn more about how you can use herbs safely.
MDJunction: This site supports an active center for online support groups, a place where patients meet every day to discuss feelings, ask questions and share hopes with others.
Patients Like Me: This site believes that when patients share real-world data, collaboration on a global scale becomes possible. New treatments become possible. Most importantly, change becomes possible. A truly interactive site, it appears that patients embrace the open sharing of personal health data because they believe that information can change the course of their diseases.
Real Mental Health: This was the first social networking site that focused on mental health treatment and wellness. Join online communities filled with individuals, families, loved ones and friends who want to interact and support each other through difficult and happy times. Obtain knowledge about symptoms and treatments, too, in topics such as addictions, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and more.
Real Self: Sometimes it takes a little nip and tuck to feel better. At Real Self, you will find comprehensive information about everything from Botox to Lasik to Zoom teeth whitening. Founded by Tom Seery in 2006, this site provides experts, many who are leading authorities in aesthetics, cosmetic surgery and dermatology, to participate on RealSelf.com without a commercial relationship or exchange of fees. Ask a question, get an answer. Easy.
RightHealth: Join active forums, get the latest mash-ups of medical news and watch the latest health videos. This site is fairly straightforward, easy to use and dedicated to giving every topic its own homepage.
Twit2Fit: If you want results and activism, choose Twitter to get going. Jason Falls experimented with Twitter to see how far he’d get in support for a fitness program, and his test blossomed into this Web site. “Twit2Fit members support and encourage those hoping to better themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Vitals: Vitals represents a place where doctors are examined. Unlike other listings for medical professionals, this one allows users to chime in. You can check up on your doctor, find a new doctor and rate doctors that you know and have visited in the past. Your opinions could, literally, save a life.
Via Plus91, Giuseppe Fattori
For many, smartphones and other web-enabled technologies have become ubiquitous, mediating activities from shopping to travel, from banking to romancing. From health apps to patient forums, the experience of being unwell has been similarly transformed. Social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook and Twitter now host burgeoning networks for individuals with chronic conditions. The size and reach of these networks means they have the potential to influence health behaviours on a grand and disruptive scale.
The NHS has historically been slow to integrate new web technologies into routine care services. So while we use social media to communicate with friends, colleagues, companies, and politicians, healthcare professionals have typically remained beyond patients’ reach.
Recently, however, government and professional policies have begun to address social media and their implications for healthcare. There are good reasons for doing so: SNSs multiply opportunities for communication between professionals, policy makers, patients, and the wider public. They can enable the government to gather feedback from service users and publicise health information, foster professional networks and patient communities, and facilitate online consultations.
Inevitably, policy and NHS activity have focused on some of these opportunities more than others. Policy papers from the Department of Health and NHS England have embedded plans for social media within a digital information strategy focused on publishing data on NHS services, increasing patient choice, and gathering business-relevant “insight.” Social media have been positioned as a way to facilitate consumer choice, helping to shift healthcare towards consumer models serving not just patients but also “clients,” “customers” and a supposed “social networking generation.”
As members of the latter, we are said to uniformly demand greater knowledge of service options so we can make better choices. While the permeation of such consumerist thinking into healthcare policy predates the Web 2.0 era, social media have nevertheless been configured as a new vehicle for delivering consumerist policies based around increased choice, “patient empowerment” and patient responsibility. To this end, rather than providing or commissioning online services, the Department of Health’s The Power of Information paper commits to “stimulating a market” and creating “space to innovate” for non-NHS organisations.
At the same time, the Department’s publications have largely overlooked social media’s potential to support therapeutic interactions between healthcare providers and service users. In some ways, this should be surprising. While claiming to address the demands of the “social networking generation,” recent policies neglect a significant reason why many individuals with chronic conditions already use SNSs —interacting with others with the same conditions through blogging, tweeting, reading, viewing, liking, sharing, and creating health-related content and using this to assist in their own self-care. Indeed, beyond a few papers by the NHS Confederation, the potential of social media to promote peer-support has remained a peripheral concern, despite examples of health professionalsand organisations already using sites to support patients.
In other ways, the government’s caution around social media is less surprising; determining how to pay for digital healthcare is complicated and remote consultations can be fraught with practical difficulties. Similarly, concerns around patient confidentiality are magnified by the corporate ownership of social media sites. For policy makers, managing these risks means limiting the government’s use of dynamic, flexible platforms to the less precarious tasks of disseminating information and sourcing patient feedback while letting the market meet remaining demand.
Yet, falling behind public and patient trends is also risky. Multiple competing sources of information that do not carry the credentials of a site like NHS Choices could create uncertainty over whose information to trust. By promoting third-sector and commercial social media organisations as providers of online services, policy is also encouraging the public into a digital health economy in which the users’ online contributions are routinely commodified and exploited for commercial ends. This can include generating research data and refining consumer-driven advertising for third party products but may also involve the sale of user-generated information to other businesses.
By retreating from providing care through social media, the government both misses opportunities and devolves risks onto the public and non-government organisations. Crucially, without a change in policy and working practices to reflect how the public use new media, our healthcare professionals will remain out of the loop with emerging patient practices.
Daniel Hunt is a research associate on the “Chronic illness and online social networking: Expectations, assumptions and everyday realities” project at Queen Mary University of London, which examines the impacts of social networking technologies on the lives of individuals with chronic conditions.
Via Plus91, Giuseppe Fattori
Obtaining informed consent is one of the most important things that a surgeon does.
I’d argue that obtaining informed consent is one of the most important things that a surgeon does — akin to the last stitch of an aortic anastomosis, the life-saving jolt of electricity to jumpstart a fibrillating heart, or the first pass of a scalpel during an emergent laparotomy.
Informed consent defines 21st-century medicine, contrasting sharply to the days of paternalistic care. Informed consent, when done properly, puts decision making into the hands of our patients. It can serve as a checkpoint to discuss goals of care and what constitutes a meaningful life for a particular patient.
It’s time we teach our trainees how to obtain informed consent the proper way. We need to slow down, pull up a chair, and look people in the eyes. We need to truly know our patients — how they understand their diagnoses, how they interface with medicine, their socioeconomic status, and education level. We must address goals of care with clear “if-then” statements.
When I teach younger residents how to obtain informed consent I often harp on a concept I learned in my undergraduate psychology class called theory of mind. Theory of mind is defined as “being able to infer the full range of mental states (beliefs, desires, intentions, imagination, emotions, etc.) that cause action.” In my opinion, theory of mind is an integral part of the consenting process that allows us to reverse roles, to see the world how our patients see it.
Halfway through obtaining informed consent from my patient, my attending steps in. He snags a stool from the corner of the room. He sits directly in front of the sick man. He talks about what life will be like for him as a new amputee.
He emphasizes the importance of diabetes control and smoking cessation. We may do everything we can and the man still may die. Would he want to live if it meant he could never go home again? He conveys the gravity of the current situation in a way that is pitch perfect. This, I think to myself, is how it’s done.
For surgeon trainees, just like making our first cut, informed consent is a skill learned by example and should be done under the watchful eye of our mentors. It’s time to pay it forward. Next time you are the chief resident, the senior attending, or anywhere in between, take a trainee with you and teach him or her how to obtain informed consent the right way. Do away with the notions of “efficiency” and speed. Your patients and your pupils will be eternally grateful.
Health organisations collect and store a lot of historic data on patients but lack the real-time data and tracking to tackle major threats to human health like large-scale epidemics or natural disasters.
When we look at the recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, this real-time information on the disease was typically not available making it extremely difficult for aid workers to not only treat those affected but also look at how to stop it spreading even further.
There is data available in the form of that produced on a daily basis when individuals use their phones. In extreme cases, like the Ebola outbreak, this data could be used to support humanitarian initiatives but only if how it is used doesn’t breach subscribers’ privacy. By not taking the telco data in its raw form but by aggregating the data and looking at community patterns, insights to support aid workers can be achieved without any access to personal details.
Using anonymised mobile data records, healthcare organisations can track population movements during an outbreak, enabling healthcare professionals to stay one step ahead of the illness, sending resources to where it’s expected next. People can be advised of their closest source of help, and officials can even use the data to ensure quarantine measures are being adhered to.
Via Giuseppe Fattori
That phone app keeping track of your exercise and meals might keep you out of the hospital one day.
Why give your doctors permission to incorporate data from fitness trackers and health apps into electronic patient records? Well, they might spot signs of an ailment sooner and suggest behavioral changes or medication before you land in the emergency room. They also might be able to monitor how you're healing from surgery or whether you're following a treatment regimen.
"Right now we only see our patients for about a 15-minute visit in the office, and it's a very constricted view," said Dr Lauren Koniaris, a specialist in pulmonary critical care at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.
"This really globalizes the view of their health status, so that we're really in contact with them on a much more daily if not hour-to-hour basis. It's almost like a virtual house call."
At Hackensack, a handful of patients at risk for heart failure are asked to use a fitness tracker to count steps walked and flights climbed. They are also asked to record what they eat - by photographing the product's bar code, for instance - using a phone app that has a database containing nutrition information on thousands of food items. Using Apple's new HealthKit technology, data from the various trackers and apps gets automatically transferred to the Epic MyChart app on the iPhone. From there, the information goes to the hospital's records system, which also comes from Epic.
Via Giuseppe Fattori
Patient’s , Nurses and Hospitals use social media regularly, do you? ONL’s Nursing Informatics and Technology subcommittee offered this lecture to explore how social media is utilized and introduce some of the most popular social media applications - Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In addition to an overview of social media’s most popular app's, this lecture offers tips on "how to get started”, links to tutorials, examples of best practices and thoughts about using social media in a professional practice environment.
Via Giuseppe Fattori
Google is expanding the health information it provides to readers. Here's what medical experts think about that.
The doctor is in. Or online, anyway.
In early September, Google announced that it would be rolling out health information about 900 conditions in the coming weeks. It will include quick, at-a-glance info and easily downloadable pages that users can take to their doctors’ offices. Of course, this begs the question: How accurate will the information be? And does this have doctors terrified that ever more patients will be showing up after self-diagnosing themselves with rare diseases they almost certainly do not have?
Via Marie Ennis-O'Connor, Giuseppe Fattori
IBM’s new health-focused venture, Watson Health, opened its headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts last week, amid the same kind of flurry of announcements and partnerships that marked its launch last April. A partnership with Teva Pharmaceuticals was one of the biggest headlines, but the company is also working with ICON, Boston Children’s and Columbia Medical, and announced it just received a grant to team up with Medtronic and launch a digital health incubator in Israel.
Not everyone is bullish about IBM’s move into healthcare, though. Naveen Rao and Brian Murphy, both analysts at Chilmark Research, attended IBM’s launch event and questioned some of the omissions. Rao and Murphy wondered whether IBM has sufficient understanding of the healthcare space to effectively innovate in it, and whether the computing giant has an overarching strategy for healthcare.
Via Giuseppe Fattori
Marketing is indispensable for any industry and the healthcare industry is no exception. Whether you are a big hospital or a doctor running a small practice of your own, and irrespective of the field of medicine that you practice, having and implementing a good marketing plan will help your practice (or hospital) to grow.
What to Incorporate in Your Marketing Plan
Following are five tips that, if incorporated in your marketing plan, can help you immensely:
Via Plus91, Lionel Reichardt / le Pharmageek
Discover how doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals all over the world are using public social media in their professional lives. In this video you'll see examples of healthcare professionals connecting together online using Twitter, Google+, blogs and forums, and you will see a new technology, Creation Pinpoint, that studies conversations among healthcare professionals to develop insights from their collective knowledge and identify information needs or concerns.
Via Giuseppe Fattori