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Can Tweet chats improve health literacy?
August 20, 2013, 9:00 AM, by Laura Downs
Entering a medical crisis is often overwhelming. There is a lot of information to interpret, and according to
Health Literacy in Canada
statistics, 60 per cent of adults and 88 per cent of seniors have low health literacy skills. Health literacy is the ability to read, understand and use health information, including instructions, prescriptions and symptom lists.
Many patients with chronic conditions cannot understand or follow treatment instructions and information; however, many people are turning to social media to improve their health knowledge, engage with healthcare providers, stay informed and join discussions.
says patients, as well as their caregivers, use social media to ask questions, expand their network and participate in the health community—thereby increasing their health literacy. As a community moderator, she encourages people to become engaged patients and caregivers and recognize they are valued members of their healthcare team.
She says many patients and caregivers are motivated to use social media for the "pay it forward" sentiment and the need to share their experiences.
“It’s a bit of a different dynamic with patients because they like to know their reactions to their diagnosis are normal," says Young. "And there is that aspect of fear, of what now? It’s like looking for members of a club in the community, but it’s not by choice or free will. They’re looking to see who else has walked that path.”
Twitter chats are one tool patients and caregivers can turn to for conversation and support. A Tweet chat is a group chat that happens on Twitter through a predefined hashtag that links the tweets together into a conversation. Some are arranged for specific times at regular intervals and are usually guided by a moderator.
Young currently runs the
Health Care Social Media Chat
every Wednesday at 1 p.m E.S.T and the last Wednesday of the month at 9 p.m. The chat is for anyone interested in open conversations on how to improve quality, access and value of healthcare.
An example of a Twitter chat on the TweetChat platform
“Find a social medium that suits your style and needs and learn how to use it so it benefits both you and the people you wish to exchange with,” she says. “People using social media expect dialogue and not just broadcasted information. On Twitter, people are judged by the value of their tweets, not by education or affiliations.”
Her tips for getting the most out of health Tweet chats include re-tweeting good posts, commenting, following people you find interesting and replying to request more information; it is more about interaction than simply deciphering the constant stream of information.
Twitter lists for
Patient support communities
For more great social media information, check out
Online forums for caregivers
Facebook and Twitter for caregivers
- two great articles in our blog archive.
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