Social Media for Healthcare and Its Use Among Adolescents and Young Adults

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Adolescents and young adults are concerned about sharing personal information online, especially related to their health, and are not inclined to use social media to communicate with their healthcare providers. Developing strategies to win over adolescents and young adults is necessary if social media is going to reach its potential in healthcare.

 

The widespread use of social media has the potential to transform healthcare. Among other things, social media provides a way for people to access health information and to connect with other people suffering from the same or similar condition. It also provides insight into patients’ lives that doctors can use to complement their clinical profile and make better decisions and determinations. These benefits, however, are dependent upon the information that patients share and the trust that patients put in the information they receive through social media platforms.

In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, Dr. Jonathan S. Hausmann and colleagues sought to determine the ways in which adolescents and young adults use social media for healthcare, and to measure their attitudes related to the use of social media as a way for patients and doctors to communicate with each other.

A total of 204 adolescents and teens, aged 12 and older, completed a questionnaire and were asked to rate their level of agreement on a variety of topics related to their use of social media for healthcare.

While nearly all the respondents (98%) had used social media within the last month, just over half (51.5%) of the participants stated that they had posted about their health on social media. The most common topics included posts about mood (76.2%), wellness (57.1%) and acute medical conditions (41.9%). Privacy was given as the biggest factor in deciding what to post and where to post it.

When questioned about the quality of information provided over social networks, only 25% agreed or strongly agreed that useful health information could be obtained in this manner.

The adolescents and young adults in this study indicated that in previous correspondence with doctors and nurses they were much more likely to communicate by phone, email, regular mail or a patient portal. When asked how they would prefer to communicate in the future, texting was favored.

Although social media holds the potential for improving healthcare, adolescents and young adults prefer to maintain their privacy as it pertains to their health, and question the value of the information they receive through social networks.

 

Written By: Sean Manning, BA, DC, MWC