We are witnessing the rise of social networking for people suffering from illnesses and diseases. Internet savvy users are advocates of social networking, and are encouraging others to join in this revolution, to talk about the various stages of their illness online such as:
1. Their diagnosis and acceptance
2. Gathering information on their illness
3. Finding a second opinion or alternatives
4. Entering a community, and
5. Being an advocate
1. Diagnosis and Acceptance
It’s obviously an overwhelming feeling when someone finds out they are diagnosed with an illness or disease. Suffers feel isolated, alone and disconnected from the world, often the people around them can support them but cannot relate to them. The communities found online in medical social networking sites provide support and help suffers with acceptance of their illness.
2. Gathering Information on Their Illness
The majority of people seek medical or health information online. Even when they themselves are not Internet savvy, they continue to search for additional information wherever found. People look for anything that provides them with comfort, good news, but it is true that depending on their personality type, they will only see the positive or the negative, or get both sides and confuse themselves even more.
Many people start with searching for information, on their symptoms in search engines like Google, and get thousands of results, often with conflicting opinions. Among the results, people find results on medical social networks, including information from forums, Facebook and Twitter. These platforms allow people to ask others found on medical social networking sites for advice.
Medical social networking has similar power as that of word of mouth; except medical social networking spreads faster and to vast amount of people suffering from similar symptoms.
3. Finding a Second Opinion or Alternative
People will also seek advice, from medical social networking sites, on which medical practitioner to see. Searching on broader social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter results in many opinions for advice on medical practitioners. These broad social networking sites may sometimes provide the opportunity to communicate with others suffering from similar conditions. Rating sites for medical practitioners, hospitals and comments are available but underused.
4. Social interaction helps research
The social aspects of illness and how people deal with illness on a global scale have always been hard to analyse. While personal data can be kept anonymous, the ability to research on illnesses is greatly increased and will hopefully lead to a greater understanding of people and the impact illnesses have on their lives.
4. Entering a Community
Medical practitioners provide recommendations of online health communities. The benefits to joining such a community include feeling less alone, learning how others are treating similar condition, how others are feeling, and what does and does not work for other people suffering with similar conditions.
5. Medical Social Networking Advocate
People want comfort, and talking to others suffering from the same condition gives them piece of mind, knowing that they are not alone. Learning what has worked for others, what hasn’t worked for others, is their disease progressing fast or slow,what they have been told to do next and how they are coping, are all strategies to help them through their illness.
Being open about symptoms means sharing information about their sufferings, often giving up some privacy about that medical condition. It is up to the individual to share personal medical information that may identify them in the real world. Individuals have the ability to share or prevent their details online, restricting accessibility to others.
Glance into the future
The rise of medical social networking sites and the development of online health communities empower people to interact at new levels. Social medical support networks provide a good source of information, as well as psychological and social support by others within the support network. Medical social networks have the potential to accelerate clinical research.