Social Media and Patient Self-Care


See on Scoop.itSocial Media in Health

As more and more people use social media, ways to connect with others increase as well. One such use in recent years has been an increase in patients looking to social media for help in self-care. To see what role social media plays in this, we first have to look at what self-care means. A quick search for the term brings over 500,000 results.

Self care definition

While traditionally, this means taking time to relax and regroup (with my personal favorite way being to get a massage), joining an in-person support group, or even just going to regular doctor visits. Patients have now discovered social media as a very useful tool for them and their families.

What are some ways social media is being used for self-care?

Online Forums – Online forums have been around since the early 1970s in the form of online bulletin boards and electronic mailing lists. These have evolved over the years to very theme/topic specific forums. This gives groups of various sizes a chance to connect and exchange tips and tricks on how to deal with symptoms, find the best doctors for specific illnesses, and to simply connect with people who have the same diagnosis.

Facebook groups and pages – Facebook has also proven itself as a great way to connect. WEGO Health is one such place that connects people with various diagnoses with peer and professional support, as well as providing them with a large source of information gathered from across the Internet.Tweet Chats – Thanks to the use of hashtags, Twitter has become popular for various groups to connect for weekly Tweet Chats. Based on a pre-arranged hashtag, patients and health activists can chat about various issues. One such longstanding chat is the weekly #PPDChat, which connects moms and dads dealing with PPD (Post Partum Depression) and PPMD (Post Partum Mood Disorder).

Personal Blogs – The list of people sharing their own personal stories continues to grow as people reach out to help others dealing with similar situations. These bloggers often build a strong support system for each other to lean on and to help people new to whatever they are going through. The topics covered range from parents with children diagnosed with various illnesses, to patients blogging about their own struggle with diabetes, cancer or eating disorders.

How does this translate to self-care? Thanks to the often-strong connections, forged due to shared experiences, these patients and caretakers have turned into health activists by reaching out to a larger community. This allows them and others to continue to improve their own health by having access to a larger pool of information than they normally would without the use of social media. It helps patients find new ways to take care of themselves and discover additional methods of tracking and maintaining their health.

All of these are valuable tools in a large self-care arsenal needed to combat often-difficult situations and illnesses. For patients and caregivers located in remote locations and removed from more traditional methods, it is at times one of the few ways, sometimes the only way, to improve personal health maintenance.

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