Today the world is celebrating Social Media Day. The event was first started by Mashable in 2010 as a way to recognize and embrace the role social media has played in bringing people together from around the world, connecting us to one another in a way mankind has never known before.
While some argue we have become more distracted and narcissistic, having lost our ability to concentrate or focus, there is one particular segment of society that has gained far more that it’s lost to social media.
Advocacy groups, blogs, Facebook, message boards, Twitter and all the other social media platforms have enabled patients living with chronic conditions to become empowered, and here are 5 ways that’s happened:
- Access to information – Social media has given patients a wealth of ways to find and share information that is relevant to their healthcare in a way like never before. No longer relying just on information supplied by their doctors or outdated reference books in the library, social media has become the conduit to facilitate sharing of information instantaneously.
- Connection to others living with the same disease or condition – No longer condemned to feel isolated with their conditions–especially those who have rare disorders–social media has allowed people to share common ground, find answers together, compare research they have done, and help scientists make progress toward finding treatments and cures.
- Ability to make better informed healthcare decisions – Instant access to information, coupled with the ability to learn from others and share experiences has enabled patients to make important decisions about their own healthcare as never before. Whether they decide to take part in a clinical trial, or they are able to find a specialist who knows their condition best, social media is helping to empower patients.
- Platform to share experiences – Empowered patients know that part of their power lies in collective knowledge. By giving back via the platforms that have helped educate them, the cycle continues. As they share experiences via social media others are able to connect, learn, and make their own educated decisions.
- Patient-driven research – The intersection of social media and healthcare is the crossroads where the most dramatic empowerment is now occurring, however: patient-driven research initiatives. Empowered patients are making real changes in the ways research is being conducted. From defining new endpoints to sharing their data for the “big picture”, patients are no longer at the mercy of others to decide what is important when it comes to research.
So whether or not you believe time spent interacting on Facebook or Twitter is “wasted”, remember that it isn’t all skiing squirrel videos or which Kardashian’s photos are getting the most likes–there are serious healthcare conversations playing out, and social media is why and how that is happening.