Role for Social Media in Pediatric Liver Disease: Caregiver and Provider Perspectives

Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2020 Nov;23(6):548-557. doi: 10.5223/pghn.2020.23.6.548. Epub 2020 Nov 5.


Purpose: To better understand the benefits and harms of engagement with online pediatric liver disease communities within social media.

Methods: We conducted a survey of caregivers of children with liver disease participating in online pediatric liver disease communities within social media, as well as a survey of healthcare providers (e.g., physicians, surgeons, nurse coordinators) from this field to better understand the perceived benefits and harms of participation.

Results: Among 138 caregivers of children with liver disease that completed the survey, 97.8% agreed social media was a good place to learn about patient experiences and 88% agreed it was a good source of general information. Among caregivers, 84.8% agreed social media helps them to better advocate for their child. While 18% agreed that the information over social media was equal to the information from their healthcare team and 19% neither agreed/disagreed, only 3% indicated they would use this information to change care without telling their provider; in contrast, among 217 healthcare providers, 55% believed social media may lead caregivers to change management without telling their team.

Conclusion: Engagement with online disease-specific communities in social media yields several benefits for caregivers and, in contrast to healthcare providers' concerns, participation is unlikely to lead to problems including caregivers changing the treatment plan without first discussing these plans with their team. Openness between caregivers and medical teams about the role for social media can help to improve trust and maximize the potential benefits of engagement with these groups.

Keywords: Facebook; Patient participation; Social media.