There is an interesting, and growing, trend of patients tapping into the power of social media to help one another with their conditions. Earlier in the year research revealed that some 60% of us go online when we’re looking for information about our condition, with a growing proportion of those taking to social media.
Whilst online communities are far from a new thing, there is a growing number of communities that are dedicated to health. HealthUnlocked is arguably the biggest in the UK, with an official partnership with the NHS evidence of its clout.
Along similar lines is a new community for cancer patients and their caregivers. The site, called Smart Patients, aims to provide a facility for suffers to help and advice one another on issues such as treatment, the latest research and help in hunting down clinical trials.
“Many patients are incredibly self-motivated,” says Roni Zeiger, MD, Smart Patients cofounder and former chief health strategist at Google. “They are already finding the most cutting-edge science and we are providing them with a new way to discuss and disseminate this knowledge.”
The really interesting side to these communities though, for me at least, is how the data from them can be used to improve healthcare. Smart Patients are teaming up with Cancer Commons to do just this. Anonymous insights from the discussions on Smart Patients will be fed into Cancer Commons Rapid Learning Communities. The aim is to ensure each cancer patient gets the most relevant treatment by analysing what similar patients are receiving.
“Smart Patients users will likely be very interested in the work that Cancer Commons is doing, especially the Donate Your Data campaign,” Zeiger says, “and people who donate their data could benefit from joining discussions on Smart Patients.”
It’s certainly an interesting project, and one that’s well worth keeping an eye on. You can get an overview of the site via the video below.