Health and social media: perfect storm of information

Healthc Inform Res. 2015 Apr;21(2):67-73. doi: 10.4258/hir.2015.21.2.67. Epub 2015 Apr 30.


Objectives: The use of Internet in the health domain is becoming a major worldwide trend. Millions of citizens are searching online health information and also publishing content about their health. Patients are engaging with other patients in online communities using different types of social media. The boundaries between mobile health, social media, wearable, games, and big data are becoming blurrier due the integration of all those technologies. In this paper we provide an overview of the major research challenges with the area of health social media.

Methods: We use several study cases to exemplify the current trends and highlight future research challenges.

Results: Internet is exploding and is being used for health purposes by a great deal of the population. Social networks have a powerful influence in health decisions. Given the lack of knowledge on the use of health social media, there is a need for complex multidisciplinary research to help us understand how to use social networks in favour of public health. A bigger understanding of social media will give health authorities new tools to help decision-making at global, national, local, and corporate level.

Conclusions: There is an unprecedented amount of data that can be used in public health due the potential combination of data acquired from mobile phones, Electronic Health Records, social media, and other sources. To identify meaningful information from those data sources it is not trial. Moreover, new analytics tools will need to be developed to analyse those sources of data in a way that it can benefit healthcare professionals and authorities.

Keywords: Health Communication; Health Social Media; Mobile Health; Patients; Public Health; Public Health Informatics; Social Networks; eHealth.

Publication types

  • Review