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Monday, June 20, 2011

I see seven!: Use of social media by seniors with multiple chronic conditions

A story from Debbie Scammon, PhD:

We are trying to reach our most fragile patients, the ones with multiple chronic conditions, who have extra needs for supportive care. I led a focus group a couple of weeks ago with ten patients, all over 60, all with at least one chronic condition. We thought people like that might be especially hard to reach with a patient portal. But every one of them HAD been on our portal, which we've had only since the Fall 2010. Nearly all of them had been looking up their test results there, after an appointment, to check the posted test results, because, they even said, they wanted to put them on Facebook! Why? I think so they could show off to their friends, even small successes, like: "I got my blood pressure under control!" or "I walked an extra mile," or "I lost five pounds!" They'd look forward to getting congratulated by their peers, getting accolades; they want that pat on the back. It might be more meaningful to them when it comes from someone who understands the situation they're in, even more than from a doctor.

Later on in that same focus group, one patient who'd been a patient advocate in a community organization raised the possibility that patients with similar conditions could start a peer support group. It was notable to me that they weren't dependent on healthcare providers for that; they wanted to be there to support each other. The information shared was that vital to them. For example, one member of the focus group had said, "I wish my care team didn't ask me what meds I was on every visit." Another member of the group responded, "That's because you only see one doctor; I see seven!" So the light bulb came on for the one who was objecting to the medication reconciliation; she said, "Now I get it!" They're able to explain to each other in understandable terms why things are happening with their conditions and their care. That's really powerful. That's the whole basis of social networking.

There's a great positive opportunity for using social media, especially electronic media, more generally to engage patients and facilitate their communication with each other.

Debbie Scammon's advice to seniors with several chronic conditions: Learn to take advantage of the "power of many" available from your peers both on- and off-line.

Thanks to Debbie for our interview in June 2011. See the executive summary of one of her recent articles.

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