Social Media and Health Care: Moving Medicine Forward ‣‣‣

Jennifer Young
Search for other papers by Jennifer Young in
Current site
Google Scholar
Full access

Social media provide powerful, game-changing tools for health care providers and patients

In a series of videos produced by the American Society of Nephrology, a physician and a social media expert discuss how physicians, researchers, and patients can use current social media tools to benefit their patients, themselves, and their organizations.

Victor Montori, MD, and Lee Aase, of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, discuss these new communication tools. In the first video, “Social Media for Patients and Physicians,” Montori, medical director at the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, explains how social media allow organizations to communicate directly with patients and to participate in “unmediated” conversations. It gives us a “bigger ear on the world,” he said, “and provides a good channel for patients to give feedback.”

Many physicians find it difficult to see the benefit of social media, Montori says. They don’t have much time to spare. But social media can be a time saver. He describes how following people of interest on Twitter helps “crowdsource” his own web browsing. The people he follows send him interesting content and links. “It makes my time online more efficient.”

Lee Aase, manager of syndication and social media at the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, discusses organizational uses of social media. The Social Media Health Network helps health care organizations around the world share how they use these new tools, create a master database of patient support groups, and establish new ways to help researchers connect. This network also improves global health literacy, he says. Currently, more than 70 health care organizations around the world belong to the network (

Social media also provide direct patient benefits. Research results and the most effective therapies can be disseminated more quickly, and patients learn more about managing their health. For example, Aase noted, a mainstream media story might spend 90 seconds describing a condition, but a patient care organization might produce a 10-minute YouTube video on the same topic. “We are reaching a very targeted audience: people who watch these videos have searched for that information.”

Patients not only share their stories but help spread valuable information to others. “Content that is developed in one place can be shared throughout the world,” says Aase. Health care organizations can produce content that helps teach the public how to make sense of scientific studies. The public can then spread this information, improving overall health literacy. The clinic’s Center for Social Media hosts this information on its recently launched Social Media Health Network. The center also maintains a database of online patient support groups on the network, so newly diagnosed patients can easily find discussions on their conditions. Many of these social media efforts will improve the work of health care professionals and the lives of the patients they care for.

The links to the Youtube videos are as follows:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3