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Social Media and Your Health: How Much Do You Share?

By Sona Mehring

Woman Using Computer

There’s no doubt that social media has changed the way that people manage illness. Everyone approaches social media and social networks in their own way. Some join a lot of communities and share details about their health freely. Others like to share only with certain communities,. while some choose not to share at all, but instead search online conversations for information that might relate to their condition.

Melissa Hogan, a caregiver to her five-year-old son who suffers from a rare disease called Hunter Syndrome, is an example of someone who sees social networks as a tool to help her be an advocate, raise awareness, raise funds, and help families.

Melissa connected with other parents in an online forum, used CaringBridge to connect with family and friends, and has created Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest pages about their experience in a clinical trial.

I’ll be sharing stories like Melissa’s at a health care social media conference this month, where I will be participating in a panel discussion on the benefits of social networks to patients, physicians and caregivers. I’ll be joined by distinguished panelists from Inspire, which builds online health and wellness communities for patients and caregivers and connects them to life science professionals, and EmpowerHER which provides women’s health and wellness content and is the largest online community of women discussing their health.

We are tasked with showing doctors how social networks can improve their patients’ quality of life and healing process, as well as how caregivers can benefit. We will also discuss what kind of information patients look for online and what doctors can learn from online patient communities.

So, as I prepare to share stories from the front lines of social media, I thought I’d ask the WebMD audience: How are you using social networks to talk about health? Do you have any advice that I should share with the doctors who will be attending this conference?

Sona Mehring is the founder and CEO of CaringBridge, a nonprofit offering many ways for people to care for each other during any type of health event. CaringBridge offers personal Sites, a SupportPlanner and an online volunteer community, the Amplifier Hub. Follow Sona on Twitter – @gogosona.

Photo: Stockbyte

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