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Capitalizing on Social Media to Enhance Diabetes Care

Capitalizing on Social Media to Enhance Diabetes Care

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have emerged as important online meeting places for social networking. Studies suggest that patients are increasingly looking to social media to gain information on medical conditions and treatments and to meet and interact with other people with similar health problems for support. “Social media offers patients an opportunity to learn about their illness and get assistance from others with similar experiences,” says Joyce Lee, MD, MPH. Some studies suggest that social networks can improve disease management and health outcomes for patients. Many disease-specific groups, including diabetes, have arisen on social media sites. “These resources have become important sources of information, support, and engagement for patients,” says Dr. Lee. Despite the emergence of these platforms, questions remain about the extent to which private firms promote their products in this unregulated environment. Furthermore, many physicians and patients are unaware of the extent to which information on social media is clinically accurate and whether patients receive advice to engage in potentially harmful activities. Exploring Social Media Use Recent studies have analyzed the content of health-seeking behavior and information sharing on popular social networking websites. “Many patients with diabetes utilize social networks and want to discuss health information online,” Dr. Lee says. Some analyses have shown that patients with diabetes, family members, and their friends use social platforms to share personal clinical information, request disease-specific guidance and feedback, and receive emotional support (Figure 1). Most social media sites that allow for wall posts provide information to patients with diabetes, but others contain advertisements, which are sometimes biased (Figure 2). The current literature suggests that there is little evidence...
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