Patients' and health professionals' use of social media in health care: motives, barriers and expectations

Patient Educ Couns. 2013 Sep;92(3):426-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2013.06.020. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


Objective: To investigate patients' and health professionals' (a) motives and use of social media for health-related reasons, and (b) barriers and expectations for health-related social media use.

Methods: We conducted a descriptive online survey among 139 patients and 153 health care professionals in obstetrics and gynecology. In this survey, we asked the respondents about their motives and use of social network sites (SNS: Facebook and Hyves), Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Results: Results showed that patients primarily used Twitter (59.9%), especially for increasing knowledge and exchanging advice and Facebook (52.3%), particularly for social support and exchanging advice. Professionals primarily used LinkedIn (70.7%) and Twitter (51.2%), for communication with their colleagues and marketing reasons. Patients' main barriers for social media use were privacy concerns and unreliability of the information. Professionals' main barriers were inefficiency and lack of skills. Both patients and professionals expected future social media use, provided that they can choose their time of social media usage.

Conclusion: The results indicate disconcordance in patients' and professionals' motives and use of social media in health care.

Practice implications: Future studies on social media use in health care should not disregard participants' underlying motives, barriers and expectations regarding the (non)use of social media.

Keywords: Health 2.0; Health care; Motives; Social media; Social network sites.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Communication*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Privacy
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Support
  • Telemedicine