News at Smith

Social Media and Healthcare

Nov 01, 2011

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The Smith School’s Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) has several ongoing projects exploring the challenges involved with integrating social media into healthcare.

One recent study found that physician-rating websites are not particularly reliable sources of information about practitioner quality. That’s because patients posting opinions about their doctors online are a lot more likely to talk about their bad experiences and are more prone to exaggerate their opinions. So a website might help you weed out the truly awful practitioners, but it’s not likely to help you find a great one. Researchers also pointed out a “sound of silence” effect for many patients who don’t choose to post anything at all about their quality of care.

CHIDS is also looking at the role of online communities in bridging the rural-urban health divide. Can social networks help increase health literacy and better connect geographically isolated patients with medical information?

The center is also working with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the largest health care insurer in Maryland, to understand the current state of social media uses and adoption and provide recommendations on the optimal way to incorporate social media at CareFirst.

For more information about this research, contact Ritu Agarwal.

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