One of the driving factors pushing doctors and clinicians into social media is frustration with inaccurate online health information.
A recent scientific study reported in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association adds to that frustration. Researchers compared Wikipedia articles with the latest medical research in ten of the most costly conditions found in the US – osteoarthritis, back problems, asthma, and seven others.
The result? Ninety percent of the Wikipedia health entries made statements that contradicted latest medical research.
The open-access nature of Wikipedia has “raised concern” among doctors about its reliability, since it’s the sixth most popular site on the internet, the authors of the research said.
So what does this study have to do with online patient communities?
There is no better way to ensure that your patients receive accurate, reliable, and up-to-date medical information than developing an active online patient community with research-based information.
Whether you’re helping patients manage their diabetes, support one another through a cancer diagnosis, cope with a rare disease, or provide care for an ill family member, an online community can bring those patients together for support and education.
Consider these effective online community strategies that promote accurate health information:
- Initiate discussions surrounding latest research.
- Invite a doctor or health practitioner to monitor conversations to ensure accuracy.
- Create a “popular myths” discussion where you can address some of the most popular misconceptions.
- Invite community members to submit their own list of things they’ve heard but know are not true.
- Produce a webinar or podcast for your community that addresses inaccurate health information. Archive the webinar so members can listen to it at any time.
- Develop a true/false quiz that new members take as part of their induction into the community.
Most importantly, create a vibrant online community to which members want to return to contribute, to give and receive emotional support, and to find out the latest information. The trust you build will develop loyalty to your health system and increase the likelihood that they will come to your hospitals and your providers for care.