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Study finds people like Facebook for health

10th May 2012

A growing number of people are using social network sites for health related issues.

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A study by management consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) show that a third of people turn to places such as Facebook and Twitter to find answers to their medical questions, needs or preferences.

PwC’s Health Research Institute arm surveyed more than 1,000 consumers and 124 healthcare executives in the US and monitored social media traffic for a week and found that patients were far more likely to obtain medical information from community or patient sites than those established by healthcare organisations.

The survey also found that 70% of respondents want to receive more assistance from healthcare providers via social media for referrals and appointments.

Speaking at the 2012 Health Informatics Congress, managing director of Intuition Communication, Keith Pollard, said that social media had changed the "patient-provider dynamic".

Pollard, who provides what he described as “the private-sector equivalent of NHS Choices”, said: “There is a massive noise of patient voice going on and there has been a massive growth in the social forums where people now go and talk about issues such as diabetes treatments and hip replacements.”

Pollard said healthcare providers were reluctant to engage with patients on social media sites because of a fear of negative comments but the PwC study revealed that most mentions on social media regarding medical treatment were “neutral”, with only 5% of comments deemed negative.

He said there were many opportunities for healthcare organisations to engage and respond to problems highlighted on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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