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Patients use Facebook, Twitter, to get health information
March 4th, 2011
06:32 PM ET

Patients use Facebook, Twitter, to get health information

Patients are turning to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook for health information, according to a survey by the National Research Corporation.

In the survey of nearly 23,000 people in the United States, 16% said they use social media as a source of health care information. For nearly all of them – 94% - Facebook was their site of choice, with YouTube coming in a distant second at 32%. Eighteen percent of the respondents said they turned to MySpace or Twitter for health information.

One in four respondents said what they learned on these sites was “very likely” or “likely” to impact their future health decisions.

The respondents who used social media were 41 years old on average. People in households earning more than $75,000 were more likely to use social media for health care purposes than households earning less.

Another survey out this week found that one in four internet users living with a chronic ailment has gone online to find others with similar health condition.

“The internet enables people to help people in a way we couldn’t help each other before,” says Susannah Fox, author of the report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “The internet gives people access to not only information, but also to each other.”

Many of the patients who sought out other patients online have rare diseases.

“They say no one really knows what they’re going through except someone in the same situation,” Fox says. “Those personal tips can make all the difference in the world.”

 Most of the patients in the survey also consulted with their doctors.

 “The oft-repeated fear that patients are using the internet to self-diagnose and self-medicate without reference to medical professionals does not emerge,” according to Fox.


soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Mike

    this is something i have been thinking about for a while. facebook needs to implement some kind of anonymiser so that people can join disease and conditions support groups and be able to guard their privacy. like or not like facebook, it is the pre-eminent social networking site.

    March 4, 2011 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Camiel

      Absolute agree. This is a great idea!

      March 9, 2011 at 05:01 | Report abuse |
  2. William Kenly

    I have a rare form of thyroid cancer. (95% of doctors know nothing about it). On the social networks I found a group of people like me. I learned and got support from this group 10X what I learned from doctors. God bless the social networks.

    March 4, 2011 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Stinker

    I let a stinker & felt better. Butt it stunk. : ]

    March 5, 2011 at 03:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mr.Mike

    There's a new site called HealthTies (http://www.healthties.com) where people can anonymously share stories of their health issues and be matched to people with similar issues to find and share health information and support. Full disclosure: My wife and I developed the site to help other people after we dealt with our own son's difficult to diagnose illness.

    March 5, 2011 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. John Novack

    Good summary of the two recent studies. If I may, another resource for patients and caregivers is my employer, Inspire, with 175 online communities and more than 170,000 members worldwide. We see regularly on Inspire comments like Mr. Kenly made, that patients gain not just information, but critical support, through online communities. We recently released a free compilation of patient stories in recognition of International Rare Disease Day 2011 http://bit.ly/i3oq4v.
    John Novack, Inspire

    March 5, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ethelcalton123

    Companies do give out samples. They are looking to put their products in potential consumers' hands. They wouldn't do it if it didn't work one of the place that always worked is "123 Get Samples" search online

    March 6, 2011 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. myownweightlossnow

    I try very hard to reach out to others through FaceBook and sometimes it works but other times I wonder as I Love helping others since I have lost almost 400lbs and I help others and go all over to speak to people,kids,schools, and company's that need me to address their employee's to help them get healthy. since I used to weight almost 600lbs I have been there nad done that before! my website is only here to help others and I use facebook and hope all will make me your friend Anthony Reed http://www.myownweightlossnow.com

    March 6, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mike

    Not to mention, most people's social network contacts are not paid by pharmaceutical companies to push drugs of dubious efficacy or safety.

    March 6, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. doTERRA Global

    Great article. We have seen countless testimonials on the social networks from people who have fixed their ailments with doterra essential oils. http://doterraglobal.com

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    March 6, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Greg

    Looking for health and fitness information online? Check out Holosfitness.com, a free online fitness tool and social network focused on fitness. Holosfitness.com has all the resources necessary to help you get in shape, stay in shape, and lead a healthy lifestyle.

    March 6, 2011 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. erin

    I use Mercola for mine but sometimes facebook too

    March 7, 2011 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Michael Wong

    How true! Patients connecting with patients is so powerful!

    As @thenerdynurse puts it - "After snow has fallen, and the road is no longer visible, the journey can be made easier when you follow the tracks already laid in the snow."

    The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published the results of the study "Culturally Appropriate Storytelling to Improve Blood Pressure", which validates getting non-adherent patients to listen to and dialogue with adherent patients can improve adherence. For links to this study, the NY Time article on it, and a case study, please see http://wp.me/p1fYJ7-5I

    March 7, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jonathan Richman

    You said: "41% said they use social media as a source of health care information," but the first line of the press release about the study you linked to says: "One in five Americans use social media websites as a source of health care information." One in five is 20% last time I checked. Which is it?

    March 24, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe Runion

      You replied as if you knew what you were talking about. HOW DO YOU MESS THAT UP WITH TOOLS LIKE COPY & PASTE? (I can give you a period of instruction on how to use them if you'd like. I'll let you correct yourself before I say anything more.

      March 23, 2012 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
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    May 15, 2012 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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