Purpose: Much health-related information is available on the internet but its quality is known to be variable. This research aimed to analyse the ophthalmic content of social media platforms which has yet to be formally assessed.
Methods: Five online social media platforms were selected, the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) forum, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Patient Opinion.org.uk. A total of 3785 items were scraped from the sites, collated and analysed using simple thematic analysis by two coders.
Results: Fourteen themes were identified. The most commonly discussed topics included treatments, care experiences, promotions and support. Un-moderated sites contain more misleading information. Complementary therapies and treatments with a poor evidence base are presented more positively than established, evidence-based treatments.
Conclusion: Online forums give patients a space to air questions, grievances, suggestions and to provide mutual support. The information they contain may be of use to physicians by flagging adverse drug reactions, areas for service improvement or topics about which patients require more information. There is a risk of exposure to misleading content which is heightened in un-moderated sites. Social media platforms may be an adjunct to current care models by providing a supportive and educational online community if these risks are understood.
Keywords: Web 2.0; glaucoma; media; social; support group.
© 2013 The Authors Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics © 2013 The College of Optometrists.