Can social media improve your health? The answer is a resounding, “yes”!

Seventy-two percent of Internet users looked online for health information and answers in 2012, according to Pew Internet, a project of the Pew Research Center. Additionally, 31 percent of cell phone owners and 52 percent of smartphone owners used their phone to look up health or medical information. And, 19 percent of smartphone owners downloaded an app specifically to track or manage health.idea-share

So have we entered into Health 2.0? You be the judge. According to Wikipedia, a concise definition of Health 2.0 is:

…the use of a specific set of Web tools (blogs, podcasts, tagging, search, wikis, etc.) by actors in health care, including doctors, patients, and scientists, using principles of open source and generation of content by users and the power of networks in order to personalize health care, collaborate, and promote health education.

The “2.0” moniker is associated with concepts like social networking, collaboration, openness, and participation. The “traditional” definition focuses on technology as an enabler for care collaboration—the use of social software and light-weight tools to promote collaboration between patients, caregivers, medical professionals, and other stakeholders in health. An expanded version of the traditional definition breaks this into components:

  1. Personalized search that looks into the long tail but cares about the user experience
  2. Communities that capture the accumulated knowledge of patients, caregivers, and clinicians and explain it to the world
  3. Intelligent tools for content delivery and transactions
  4. Better integration of data with content—all with the result of patients increasingly guiding their own care.

Health 2.0 is a more participatory process where patients are more like partners. This has added to the reshaping of the health care process itself. The Pew Internet study also found:

  • Thirty-five percent of U.S. adults say that at one time or another they have gone online specifically to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.
  • One in five Internet users have consulted online reviews and rankings of health care service providers and treatments.
  • Seven in 10 U.S. adults have tracked a health indicator for themselves or for someone else. Of those, 34 percent share their health tracking records or notes with another person or group.
  • Twenty-six percent of Internet users have read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months.
  • Three to four percent of Internet users have posted their experiences with health care service providers or treatments.

Health care is evolving daily, and it is important to stay abreast of the impact social media has on your personal health and what your role is in the process. How can you participate to improve your own personal health and, through  participation, the health care process as a whole?