Dissemination of health information through social networks

This is the era of evidence-based social media as more and more papers focusing on medicine and social media are coming out. An interesting paper was published a few days ago in the American Journal of Infection Control. Scanfeld et al. tried to reveal the rate of misunderstanding or misuse of antibiotics in Twitter messages in their study (Dissemination of health information through social networks: twitter and antibiotics.)

BACKGROUND: This study reviewed Twitter status updates mentioning “antibiotic(s)” to determine overarching categories and explore evidence of misunderstanding or misuse of antibiotics.

METHODS: One thousand Twitter status updates mentioning antibiotic(s) were randomly selected for content analysis and categorization. To explore cases of potential misunderstanding or misuse, these status updates were mined for co-occurrence of the following terms: “cold + antibiotic(s),” “extra + antibiotic(s),” “flu + antibiotic(s),” “leftover + antibiotic(s),” and “share + antibiotic(s)” and reviewed to confirm evidence of misuse or misunderstanding.

RESULTS: Of the 1000 status updates, 971 were categorized into 11 groups. Cases of misunderstanding or abuse were identified for the following combinations: “flu + antibiotic(s)” (n = 345), “cold + antibiotic(s)” (n = 302), “leftover + antibiotic(s)” (n = 23), “share + antibiotic(s)” (n = 10), and “extra + antibiotic(s)” (n = 7).

CONCLUSION: Social media sites offer means of health information sharing. Further study is warranted to explore how such networks may provide a venue to identify misuse or misunderstanding of antibiotics, promote positive behavior change, disseminate valid information, and explore how such tools can be used to gather real-time health data.