The role of online media platforms in patient care

By Alana Ray Osborne

The digital age is transforming a person’s access to consumer information especially when it comes to health care. We asked Public Insight Network sources across the country what role online platforms play in their approach to their own care.

We received a range of responses discussing whether online media platforms influence their approach to patient care.

Public Insight Network source Lois Dorn, a retired health-care support staff member, said she accesses sites like WebMD, Mayo Clinic and alternative medicine sites to understand more about her symptoms and initial health concerns. Dorn does not allow any social media to direct her choice in patient care.image

“I would not be influenced by what other people say unless they are professionals,” she said.

Another Public Insight Network source, Patricia Black, a retired California teacher, said WebMD and Wikipedia allow her to evaluate other possible explanations for her symptoms. These online platforms help Black take control of her health and understand what treatments or options may be possible.

Black said her research helps her “have a better understanding of what it is and also what some of the possible treatments or alternative treatments might be.”

This myriad of online platforms aids both women in their health research and the various next steps available. These platforms help them ask more informed questions, discuss alternatives and explore their concerns.

Black used a farmers’ market metaphor to explain the value of Facebook and Twitter. At her local community farmers’ markets, Black runs in to friends and family during the summer. They discuss their lives, and everyone shares relevant and important information.

“Facebook in a lot of ways operates that very same way so that people support each other and give each other ideas,” said Black.

Black said the closed Facebook groups where people can share their experience could add value to patient care; however, she said privacy would always remain an area of concern when dealing with health care topics.

“They are very private, and so I am not sure social media is the place to be having them or not,” said Black.

Both Dorn and Black agreed that online media platforms could increase patient control to help decide what information is most valuable in their research.

Dorn attended a conference in November of 2014 at the University of California San Diego’s Stein Institute for Research on Aging and on the future of healthy aging. The conference discussed the technological advancements and future of patient care.

Dorn recalled hearing “how we will all be self-monitoring by iPhones or iWatches.” Self-monitoring at home will allow users to transmit vitals and test results in real-time to doctors instead of waiting for office visits. For example, consumers can track their symptoms for greater continuity of care. The technology and applications give the patient more control to monitor their activity and document their status. Essentially patient care will exist in the home.

Dorn said she looks forward to the future advancements in technology, especially the self-monitoring technology.

“I would use it because if you can’t get in to see a doctor, what can you do?” said Dorn. “I am looking to the future, and besides I like to try and stay away from doctors if I can.”

It has yet to be determined if iWatches, iPhones and iPads will transform the future of health care.

For now, we know content is always being published, updated or modified. Black said, “It seems like there all these hidden secret possibilities.”

As a consumers or producers of content, it is important to discern relevance, impact and value for yourself.

Click here to share your insight on what quality patient care means to you.

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