The Role of Social Media for Patients and Consumer Health

Journal: IMIA Yearbook
ISSN: 0943-4747

Towards Health Informatics 3.0

Issue: 2011: IMIA Yearbook 2011
Pages: 131-138

The Role of Social Media for Patients and Consumer Health

Contribution of the IMIA Consumer Health Informatics Working Group

Section 7: Education and Consumer Informatics

Working Group Contributions

A. Y. S. Lau (1), K. A. Siek (2), L. Fernandez-Luque (3), H. Tange (4), P. Chhanabhai (5), S. Y. W. Li (6), P. L. Elkin (7), A. Arjabi (8), L. Walczowski (8), C. S. Ang (8), G. Eysenbach (9,10)

(1) Centre for Health Informatics, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; (2) Wellness Innovation and Interaction Laboratory, University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Computer Science, Boulder, USA; (3) Northern Research Institute, Tromsø, Norway; (4) Caphri School of Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, The Netherlands; (5) Department of Information Science, University of Otago, New Zealand; (6) Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Lingnan University, Hong Kong; (7) Department of Internal Medicine Director, Center for Biomedical Informatics Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, USA; (8) School of Engineering and Digital Arts, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK; (9) Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada; (10) Department of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada


Social media, healthcare consumers, patients, health behaviour, social network


Objectives:: To provide an overview on social media for consumers and patients in areas of health behaviours and outcomes. Methods: A directed review of recent literature. Results:: We discuss the limitations and challenges of social media, ranging from social network sites (SNSs), computer games, mobile applications, to online videos. An overview of current users of social media (Generation Y), and potential users (such as low socioeconomic status and the chronically ill populations) is also presented. Future directions in social media research are also discussed. Conclusions:: We encourage the health informatics community to consider the socioeconomic class, age, culture, and literacy level of their populations, and select an appropriate medium and platform when designing social networked interventions for health. Little is known about the impact of second-hand experiences faciliated by social media, nor the quality and safety of social networks on health. Methodologies and theories from human computer interaction, human factors engineering and psychology may help guide the challenges in designing and evaluating social networked interventions for health. Further, by analysing how people search and navigate social media for health purposes, infodemiology and infoveillance are promising areas of research that should provide valuable insights on present and emergening health behaviours on a population scale.

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