Contradictory tips and strategies about how to improve our health fill the airwaves, magazines and newspapers year-round. Drink coffee; don’t drink coffee. Eat whole grains; avoid carbohydrates of any kind. Vitamin supplements are good for you; wait, no they’re not. All of these news stories claim they are based on “evidence.” So what’s the deal?
The Columbia Journalism Review published a fascinating story earlier this year on how many health journalists – even reputable writers working at major publications – often report unreliable information because they don’t pay attention to the pitfalls of scientific research.
The author explains the situation like this: “…science reporters tend to confuse the findings of published science research with the closest thing we have to the truth. But as is widely acknowledged among scientists themselves, and especially within medical science, the findings of published studies are beset by a number of problems that tend to make them untrustworthy, or at least render them exaggerated or oversimplified.”
The article lists three common problems that affect the accuracy of scientific research. One major problem, he says, is that journalists often list these problems as a side note, instead of realizing that they may skew the results of the study.
The Internet can increase access to psychosocial care for breast cancer survivors through online support groups. This study will test a novel prosocial online group that emphasizes both opportunities for getting and giving help. Based on the helper therapy principle, it is hypothesized that the addition of structured helping opportunities and coaching on how to help others online will increase the psychological benefits of a standard online group.
"As medical director of radiation oncology at Lowell General Hospital in Massachusetts, Matthew Katz, MD, is well attuned to trends in breast cancer treatment.
He and his colleagues have adopted the practice of using shorter radiation courses—for example, treating lumpectomy patients when appropriate with a slightly higher dose for 3 to 4 weeks rather than a standard dose for 5 to 6 weeks. They have patients with left-sided breast cancers use deep inspiration breath hold to inflate the lungs, moving the heart momentarily to reduce its radiation exposure. And they’re interested in identifying older women who can avoid post surgical radiation that is unlikely to lengthen their lives.
But the area that most distinguishes Katz may be his interest in understanding the subtle nuances of doctor-patient communication that contribute to patients’ decision making and their experiences of treatment. That has led him to focus on supportive conversations in his practice and to venture into the wilderness of online social media to learn more about how patients view their treatment."
Studies have shown positive impact of video blogs (vlogs) on patient education. However, we know little on how patient-initiated vlogs shape the relationships among vloggers and viewers. We qualitatively analyzed 72 vlogs on YouTube by users diagnosed ...
At the offer of a play on the iPad in the anaesthetics nurse's hand, five-year-old William Deans instantly forgot his panic triggered by the sight of the operating theatre at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, calmly climbed onto the table and…
The rapid explosion in online digital health resources is seen as transformational, accelerating the shift from traditionally passive patients to patients as partners and altering the patient–health care professional (HCP) relationship. Patients with chronic conditions are increasingly engaged, enabled, and empowered to be partners in their care and encouraged to take responsibility for managing their conditions with HCP support.
The following analysis discusses the demographic characteristics of each of the five social media platforms in the survey. Fully 72% of online American adults use Facebook, a proportion unchanged from September 2014. Usage continues to be…
Social media has done a lot of good for the world—it has become a platform to reconnect with friends and family, gives a voice to those who would otherwise not have one, and also helps people spread information to one another. One of the biggest flaws, however, is that social media can also be used to spread misinformation. Many posts often go viral without any background information, mostly in the form of memes and videos, and people are quick to jump on liking and sharing posts without having full knowledge or context of what they are sharing.
One of the biggest pieces of misinformation that has been spread is the link between autism and vaccines. While the link between vaccinating children and autism has been thoroughly debunked (one study had 95,000 participants), many still believe that there is a link. Celebrities such as actor Jim Carrey and model Jenny McCarthy are at the forefront of the anti-vaccination movement, and their influence allows misinformation regarding autism and vaccines to continue.
It has even gotten to the point where several children were infected with measles at Disneylandbecause of parents’ refusal to vaccinate their children. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000, yet 644 people were infected in 2014, showing that misinformation on social media might play a part in parents refusing to vaccinate their kids.
Doctors have been split on whether or not to be active on social media—some say that it’s a waste of time, citing that there is no return on investment and significant burnout, while others believe social media can be the tool to help patients to become healthier and also stop misinformation from spreading online. “Studies suggest that patients forget more than 50 percent of what they are told in the doctor’s office. Add to that misremembering or misinterpretation, and the information holes grow even larger,” said Dr. Howard Luks, Chief of Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy at University Orthopedics, PC and Westchester Medical Center on KevinMD, a popular medical blog.
Dr. Kathryn A. Hughes, a Massachusetts-based surgeon, used to be skeptical of doctors being active on social media, citing privacy concerns and professionalism. “Be mindful of privacy and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which governs patient privacy), and aware that content once posted can never really be deleted or retracted. Be careful that private and professional content do not mix, although the reality is that there really isn’t any such thing as truly private content,” she said.
Dr. Hughes also said that doctors being active on social media can also create a community of professionals where doctors can share information with one another and work together. “I also see social media as part of the solution to reestablish this sense of community and collegiality among doctors. Technology and the platforms being developed and tailored to physicians may re-create that space, where communication and collaboration can grow,” she added.
Lawmakers are also assisting doctors in their fight against medical misinformation. California’s SB 277, which effectively removes the parents’ ability to claim “personal belief” exemptions to vaccination requirements at schools, was passed as a reaction to the measles outbreak at Disneyland. While part of the measles outbreak could be blamed on misinformation being spread on social media, doctors could have taken charge and refuted anti-vaccination groups more actively online.
“Times are changing. Change happens all the time, all around, inside and out. It is random, with no direction, both good and bad, like genetic mutations. This is our opportunity to engage and participate, to direct the change, and to make it progress,” said Dr. Hughes.
I’ve discussed in the Ad Spread the use of social media for the luxury retail industry as well as for museums. Today’s topic: the healthcare industry.
Companies in the B2C sector use social media for Big Data in order to get insights on their consumers to identify new needs and explore new market opportunities. This can also be done for the healthcare sector – which the industry is slowing acknowledging and implementing.
Many users use the Internet and Social Media to find out about symptoms they may have or side effects related to medication they are taking. In 2012, the Health Research Institute (HRI) conducted a study which found that one-third of consumers were using social media for health-related matters. It also indicated that these consumers were usually choosing to research information on “community” sites over industry specialized sites. RISK: they may have access to false information.
“Social media terms such as liking, following, tagging, can provide the clues that could lead to higher quality care, more loyal customers, efficiency, and even revenue growth” (HRI, 2012). Social media could therefore help Health Organizations and departments to identify this and communicate the right information as well as suggest possible prevention procedures through keyword search, hashtags and creating a page/profile on various social networks where users can ask, engage and be informed on current health matters. Another option is to ask Health Specialists participate in external forums to reduce the risk of misleading information and generate awareness about industry approved websites.
There are current talks between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Google about how the search engine could help the agency identify unknown side effects of medications (Bloomberg, 2015). This project could go a long way in terms of minimizing and tracking health risks, and reaching out to patients with possible side effects.
One thing health organizations must be weary of is providing too much information. Indeed, doctors should not be providing medical assistance to patients through social media and they would be liable for wrongful practice.
Government, the NHS and professional healthcare bodies have embraced social media networks as dissemination tools but frequently overlook their potential for peer-to-peer support, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London.
The popularity of social media sites and the ease at which its data is available means these platforms are increasingly becoming primary sources for social research. Wasim Ahmedpresents a quick look at some of the tools available to social scientists for analysing social media data and also reflects on the limitations of the platforms and the methods used for this type of research.
I have a social media research blog where I find and write about tools that can be used to capture and analyse data from social media platforms. My PhD looks at Twitter data for health, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. I am increasingly asked why I am looking at Twitter, and what tools and methods there are of capturing and analysing data from other platforms such as Facebook, or even less traditional platforms such as Amazon book reviews.
Deputy Director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Aswita Tan-McGrory discusses why health systems need to address social needs.
Heather Swift's insight:
New Video: Why Should Health Systems Address Social Needs?Medicine holds incredible power to save lives. But what happens when the risks to health are outside the scope of health care? In this video, Aswita Tan-McGrory, Deputy Director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells a powerful story of the impact of home environments on health. She describes “the limits of medicine” and challenges health systems to look outside their walls to improve health outcomes for their patients.
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