Systematic review: Social media for health communication

JMIRBack to the real world after two weeks in amazing Japan, I found in my Twitter profile a link to a recently published article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. It didn’t take more than reading the title to know that this article could be interesting – at least for someone like me:

“A New Dimension of Health Care: Systematic Review of the Uses, Benefits, and Limitations of Social Media for Health Communication”

Based on 98 original research studies the authors have set out to review published literature on social media for health communication in order to identify the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication among the general public, patients, and health professionals. Secondly, they aim to identify current gaps in the literature and provide recommendations for future health communication research.

The paper gives a comprehensive overview of the topic and the reference section is a great resource list.

If you’re not up for reading the paper in its entirety, three of the tables gives a great summary of the findings. Follow the link to the paper above or check out the tables at the end of this post.

What about science communication?

One thing that strikes me is that if you take a look at table 3, which lists the different uses of social media for health communication, the use of social media for communicating science and research in health is not on it. Neither when it comes to research communication between health professionals nor communicating health related research to the public is mentioned. An interesting and slightly surprising find I would say. Granted, it could to some extend figure under the categories ‘Providing health information’, ‘Proving answers to medical questions’ and ‘Facilitate dialogue between patients and health professionals’, but none the less it is not a category in it self. Whether this is because it has not be the focus of any research studies, or doesn’t take place at all is hard to tell. I believe (and hope) however, that it is the later.

None the less, the article underscores the growing role and importance of social media in health and in health communication, and shows that it cannot and should not be ignored.

Table 3 – Uses of social media for health communication 

Table 3 - JMIR

Table 4 – Benefits of using social media for health communication –

Table 4 - JMIR

Table 5 – Limitations of social media for health communicationTable 5 - JMIR


The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub

In my research on the use of social media in emergency management and communication and my hunt for good case studies, I have come across a knowledge hub, that I thought I’d share with you. I was of course introduced to it by wonderful people on Twitter (thank you Eva Alisic).

KnowledgehubThe website is called The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub and is still a BETA version of the Knowledge Hub, but a good BETA version. It provides easy access to evidence-based research and other research as wells as news relevant to emergency management, including statistics and information, photos, video and media about past disaster events. You can read more about the rational and the organisations behind the website on their ‘about’ page.

mapThe website has lots of well thought out search tools. You can search for information about specific emergencies through a combined map and timeline. It will provide you with basic data about the event and links to resources related to the event in the research database.

You can also go directly to the research database and search here on the topic you seek information. You can even filter or sort it by the kind of document (case study, website, report, journal article, blog, wiki etc.), date and disaster category.

Although I haven’t yet tried it out, there is also a community forum space where people working with emergency management can register to discuss ideas and issues affecting the emergency sector.

As the name of the knowledge hub implies, the majority of the resources relates to Australia and its closest surrounding countries, but it is no way exclusive. I have mostly been looking at things related to social media and it seems to me that Australia is first-mover country when it comes to integrating social media into emergency management.

The Knowledge Hub also provides access to resources in the Australian Emergency Management Library.

knowledgehub twitter

Users of the hub can contribute to the hub’s continuous development, by recommending additional resources, share upcoming events, photos, videos and join in on the discussions.

The Australian Emergency Management Knowledge Hub is of course also on Twitter (@AEMKH), which they use very actively.



New Public Health Blog from PLOS blogs!

I can’t believe that this is my post number 101. Actually, I had planned to do something special with blog post no. 100, but I only realised that it was my anniversary post when it was published. So the celebration will have to wait for post number 500.

However, post number 101 can also be special and actually I think the topic is quite appropriate: A public health science blog hosted by PLOS blogs has arrived! It is simply called ‘Public Health‘ and has five contributors coming from different backgrounds but all with an interest in Public Health.

PLOS Blogs public healthThe blog looks very promising and the posts currently posted are well written and interesting. I look forward to following the blog and hope for many discussions.

Public Health 2.0

Not surprisingly, I am especially happy to see that the topic of social media and public health is discussed on the blog. In the post Public Health 2.0: Electric Boogaloo by Atif Kukaswadia of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada draws attention to strengths and weaknesses of social media in public health. It is clear that Atif comes to this with an epidemiologist’s perspective (being and Ph.d. candidate in Epidemiology), but he raises some important questions about acknowledging that social media exists and that regardless of whether people with scientifically founded knowledge make use of social media or not, people spreading untrue or perhaps even harmful public health information will continue to do so. This is in my opinion an important argument which needs to be made also to the social media skeptics.

The post is full of great links, so newcomers to the topic of public health 2.0 should take a look at the post and join the discussion.

Social media and science conferences

Atif Kukaswadia opens the blog post with discussing what makes a good conference, and how it not necessarily what happens during the presentations and in the conference room, but rather the discussions that continue (or perhaps first starts) in the lunch room and during the coffee breaks. This make me wonder, if Atif Kukaswadia has been to the Science Online conferences, which acknowledges exactly that. These conferences are built up following a so-called ‘non-conference’ format and brings more space for the in-between-sessions-stuff. Based on my experiences the ScienceOnline people are the most advanced users of social media before, during and after conferences. For newcomers to social media in conferences it is actually quite overwhelming and a little extreme – but none the less a great eye-opener for the power of social media in conferences.


Social media: putting the public into public health information dissemination

I can’t think of a more appropriate place than Twitter to come across an article about the use of social media to disseminate public health information.

I regularly do a Twitter search for ‘public health social media’ and very often come across new interesting initiatives, reports, meetings etc.

Today’s finding was the article Putting the Public into Public Health Information Dissemination: Social Media and Health-related Web Pages. The article, written by Professor Robert Steele and Dan Dumbrell, both from the Discipline of Health Informatics at The University of Sydney, takes a closer look at social media as a tool for the dissemination of public health information.

The paper discusses the novel aspects of social media-based public health information dissemination, including a very interesting comparison of its characteristics with search engine-based Web document retrieval. I especially find the below table from the paper interesting:

To me, this table captures in a very precise way many of the advantages and new possibilities of social media. The ‘push’ and ‘pull’ analogy for the mode of disseminating information is very telling. I also find the interaction difference of ‘community and peer-post-based’ vs. ‘individual’ based interesting and particular relevant to the field of public health sciences.

In addition to the comparison of social media and search engine-based web document retrieval, the paper presents the results of preliminary analysis of a sample of public health advice tweets taken from a larger sample of over 4700 tweets sent by Australian health-related organization in February 2012 and discusses the potential of social media to spread messages of public health.

All in all the paper has a lot of very interesting perspectives and makes a call for more research in the area. I’m looking forward to hearing more as they get deeper into the analysis. For example it would be interesting to learn about which hashtags (#) the analysed tweets were assigned, if any.


Seminar: Medicine 2.0: Social media in medical research and practice

Today, on Monday 29 October 2012, Medical Museion and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at University of Copenhagen is hosting a meeting on social media in medical research and practice.

Social media have conquered society. They are now also making their way into medical research and practice. What can doctors and researchers gain from using social media? How will these media change medical science and practice?

The meeting will kick off with 30-minute presentations by international experts in medical science communication and also active social media users:

  • Dr. Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), advocate for ”open access publishing” and very active on social media
  • Dr. Bertalan Meskó, founder of www.webicina.com and one of the world’s leading experts in the field of medicine and social media

Following the talks, the audience will be invited to discuss with a panel, which also includes MD PhD journalist Charlotte Strøm and me who has had the honor of being refered to as a Danish specialist in medical communication Nina Bjerglund Andersen.

The event is open to everyone and will be in English. No sign-up required.

Event details:

Date: 29 October 2012, 14:00 – 16:00
Location: Haderup-auditoriet, bygning 20, Panum, Nørre Allé 20, Copenhagen
Organiser: Faculty of Health Sciences and Section for Science Communication, NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research in collaboration with the Copenhagen Graduate School of Health and Medical Sciences.
Contact: Research assistant Lasse Frank, lasse.frank@sund.ku.dk or professor Thomas Söderqvist, thss@sund.ku.dk, tel. 2875 3801


Online Science Communication the French way

Science communication and the internet is becoming a topic all over the world. Also France are tuning in on it. A conference next week at the Pasteur Institute brings people together to discuss how science communicated via the internet can help bring science to a wider public.

The conference which is entitled ‘Communiquer la science via internet’ takes place on the 25 September and you can read the programme here.

The conference aims to promote reflection and dialogue between science producers and citizens to improve science communication.

The conference is number three in a series of conferences focusing on communicating science. The initiative for the conference comes from a number of research institutions (Andra, CEA, Genopole, Inserm, Institut Pasteur, IRD, Cemagref), IHEST (Institute des Hautes Etudes pour la Science et la Technologie) and Universcience,

The conference is aimed at producers of science, public communicators, program designers, animators sites, the media, and the Internet.

Thanks to Karine Blandel from Signsofscience.org for letting me know of the conference.



Social media “likes” healthcare

The report is based on a survey of 1.060 American adults and 124 health care executives.

Social media “likes” healthcare. This is the title of a recently launched report from PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI). The subtitle; From marketing to social business, reveals that the report is focused on the role of social media in health care business. It does however have some interesting findings which are relevant also seen from a science communication perspective.

From PwC’s website the report including the statistical findings can be downloaded, so I won’t refer them here, but just highlight a points which could be useful in public health science communication.

 

The public does seek health information through social media

According to the report it is clear that social media is a tool for the public when they need health information. The figure below illustrates this.

Of course these findings applies to an American population with a very different health care system in comparison to the Danish health system. The information is however valuable because it confirms that health information seeking behavior includes social media. This is of interest to health care providers but also to researchers in health care, who have a unique chance to communicate their findings, reflections etc. to people who are actually searching for them. And why is that relevant? Well, to quote Don Sinko, chief integrity officer of Cleveland Clinic who in the report states:

“One of the greatest risks of social media is ignoring social media. It’s out there, and people are using it whether you like it or not.”

I would argue that this goes for public health science communication too. If the consumers doesn’t find your research while searching social media they will just find something else. Social media is out there and people are using it whether you like it or not.

Listen, Participate, Engage

Although the report focuses on how social media can be used in marketing and in social business strategies, HRI’s suggested social media participation model for businesses does hold some useful tips relevant also for science communication. The Listen, Participate, Engage strategy is illustrated below.

Looking at the strategy with science communication eyes this could be a good starting point for scientists who are newcomers to social media.

Listening is to start knowing. Looking into what other research organisations are communicating, what patient associations are focusing on, what colleagues already on social media are writing about can be a way to get a feel for the media and how it works. And it is pretty risk free – it is about listening and learning.

Second step is to participate. Start sending out tweets or post links to your own articles on Facebook. Retweet others links. There is no need to actively engage or go into discussions, but being active can give a feel of what happens when you communicate.

Third step is then to start engaging. From my experience it is not a process that is strictly divided into phases but something that slowly progresses. All of the sudden it makes sense to comment on a blog post, to ask a question on Twitter or respond to a statement on Facebook. It is also a process to find out what kind of social media that works best for the individual. Slowly moving from listening, to participating and then engaging makes it clear that the different platforms offers different functionalities and that which ones are most useful varies between scientific disciplines, organisations, countries etc.

All in all very simple steps and nothing fancy, but it doesn’t always have to be so complicated.

A health care business focus report

Again, the report from HRI is focused on health care business and not on health sciences. It would be interesting to do a similar or extended survey including questions on scientific health information and interviewing research institutions about their use of social media. I do believe however that some of the findings from the consumer survey in this report, which indicates that social media is playing an increasingly significant role in health care, also applies to health sciences and that public health researchers who are not already trying out the media should start to listen, participate and engage.


A small treasure box of essays on social media and health from NEJM

Once again, Twitter uncovered for me a small treasure box on the web. By following a link in a tweet I found a box full of stories of how social media and medicine and public health can benefit from each other. The treasure box is part of the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine) 200 years anniversary site and is shaped as an essay contest, which celebrates medical accomplishments over the past two centuries, but with a special focus on the profound changes which has taken place in how information is communicated. To quote from NEJMs own introduction:

“The internet and social networking have enabled everything from romance to revolution. In the healing arts, this change has transformed how the public accesses and uses health-related information. What used to rest solely in the hands of medical professionals now is easily accessible to the public. This paradigm shift brings with it benefits and challenges.

As future members of the medical profession and current users of these communications tools, students and residents are uniquely poised to apply and evaluate the impact of these evolving methods of information exchange on the art and science of medicine.

Essay Question: How can we harness this technology to improve health?”

This question has been answered by a wide range of people. The Gold and Platinum Winning Essays are online for everyone to read.

From Framingham to Facebook

My entry point into this little treasure box was an essay by Michelle Longmire, from Stanford University Medical Center, called From Framingham to Facebook. The name Framingham should ring a bell with almost any public health’er and refers to the Framingham Heart Study, a cohort study which began in 1948 in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. Michelle Longmire compares the magnitude of social media networks with the Framingham cohort and the possibilities which lays in the tremendous amounts of data that social media offers. And the possibilities for sharing information, keeping people informed etc. The commercial sector has already discovered this. When will medicine and public health?

A Move towards Evidence-Based Conversations on Social Networks

Another nice essay is by Daniel Imler from Boston Medical Center, who writes about the potential of social media to pull from two very different worlds, the emotion of social sharing around health issues and the scientific rigor of medical literature. And how social networks enables evidend-based conversation rather than rumour and emotionally based discussion.

#Healthtrends

I also very much enjoyed reading the essay #Healthtrends by Ryan Kahn from Johns Hopkins University. Ryan writes about the world of hashtags (#) and how they can be used in Public Health to do surveys and get people involved. He even comes up with a concept for and project with a hashtag called #healthtrends which he claims could be used to improve the public health of many. Maybe taking the mouth a bit full, but the conceptual idea is there.

And many more…

There are several other small essays which are worth a read – do take a look at them.



When someone else writes convincingly why scholars should be on Twitter

Sometimes it just seems silly to duplicate other people’s words when they have used just the right phrases and words to say something.

The blog post “How to use Twitter” by PhD student in Molecular Pharmacology at the University of Aberdeen, Heather Doran gave me a little bit of that feeling. By sharing her own experiences, Heather writes about her efforts to get every other ph.d. student she meets to join Twitter! The blog post contains lots of good tips and arguments for why every PhD student and other researchers should get that Twitter account and start using it as part of their academic career. There are also tips to some Tweeters to follow.

So to save words: check out Heather Doran’s blog post “How to use Twitter” (and other posts on her blog Happy Science) and follow her on Twitter @hapsci.