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President’s Perspective: Social Media

President’s Perspective: Social Media

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This month’s issue of Pulse considers the myriad ways social media is changing the world of medicine.

We’ve known for some time that people with a community—people who have meaningful human interactions—will do better in terms of health. They live longer. They’re happier, whatever “happier” means. Actually, if you really dig deep, you’ll find that happiness is often service to others. And so many of the anecdotes in the “Social Media & Medicine” story bear this out. One woman who has struggled with miscarriages shares personal stories on her blog. This act of sharing is therapeutic for her and affirming to her readers who are also mourning babies.

Finding public and private forums to share detailed medical information has become increasingly important to a public that wants better, faster answers about doctors and possible treatments. This is particularly true of rare or orphan diseases. Nobody’s making drugs for them because it’s not profitable. Nobody’s creating medical devices for them because it’s not profitable. Patients are caught in this conundrum, so they all band together on social media. They basically run a service that steers patients away from hacks and toward doctors and researchers who offer compassionate care and results.

Health providers are profoundly limited in the medical information they can share, but regular people aren’t. Right now, you have to ask permission to get your health data from the hospital, but eventually people will control their own data from a device. Think about it. You know all about your car, but you don’t know all about your own body. When you control and manage your own health data, you’ll probably be healthier. You’ll say, “Wow, that’s my BMI? That’s my blood pressure? That’s my cholesterol? I need to do something to get healthier.”

As medicine becomes more collaborative, social media platforms and smartphone apps are, quite literally, placing our health in our own hands. Just like the human body, social media is a fascinating, ever-changing world of networks and connectivity.

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