Using Social Media in Oncology

Using Social Media in Oncology

The increasing popularity and use of social media in medicine offers great opportunities for healthcare professionals and their institutions to interact with patients and colleagues at a pace that has never before been possible. For oncologists, the variety of web-based and mobile technologies that make up social media allow for patient education and authoritative health messaging. Professional development and knowledge sharing, as well as increased direct patient interaction, are other attributes of these technologies. However, while social media offers great potential in healthcare, oncologists must be aware of the possible legal and privacy issues that come along with its use. The Value of Social Media According to Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, the immediate past-chair and member of the Integrated Media and Technology Committee from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), social media lends itself specifically to oncology for the very reason that the field appears to be evolving quickly. “Determining the social media outlets that present the most benefit to oncologists depends on each practitioner’s needs,” he says (Table 1). Twitter appears to hold significant value for oncologists, explains Dr. Dizon, who was also the lead author of an article published in the Journal of Oncology Practice that provides clinicians with guidance on using social media in oncology. “This is primarily because users have the ability to preselect individuals to follow to suit their own specific needs,” he says. “Users can also create lists to further streamline tweeted content. I have separate lists for people who tweet about their experiences with cancer, cancer centers, news disseminators, and colleagues.” Dr. Dizon adds that one of the best uses...

Controlling Glucose: Mobile Apps to the Rescue

In the United States, diabetes affects 25.8 million people, for whom the costs of care exceed $100 billion annually. Clinical trials suggest that improved self-care and lifestyle changes can lead to better diabetes-related outcomes. Unfor­tunately, other studies indicate that just 55% of patients with type 2 diabetes receive diabetes education, and only 16% report adhering to recommended self-care practices. Part of the problem behind the poor dissemination of and adherence to behavioral interventions is that patients with diabetes are generally limited to 15-minute office visits with their primary care providers. In that short period, it’s often challenging for physicians and healthcare providers to thoroughly educate patients on their disease. Further complicating the issue is that many patients do not have access to one-on-one or group interventions that can enhance adherence to important self-care practices. Testing a Mobile Apps on Glucose Control In a study published in the September 2011 issue of Diabetes Care, my colleagues and I tested a diabetes coaching system for patients with type 2 diabetes. The system uses mobile phone applications and patient/provider portals to provide feedback on self-management and blood glucose results. It also collects data on lifestyle behaviors and clinical manage­ment. The hope was that this program could reduce A1C levels over 1 year. In our analysis, three intervention groups consisting of patients and physicians received different amounts of infor­mation. Maximal treatment consisted of automated, real-time education and behavioral messaging in response to individu­ally analyzed blood glucose values, diabetes medications, and lifestyle behaviors communicated by cell phone. Quarterly reports were given to providers that summarized patients’ gly­cemic control, medication management, lifestyle behaviors, and evidence-based...