Connecting Social Media and EHRs as a Research Tool

Gretchen Kalthoff

Gretchen Kalthoff

Posted on January 27, 2016

medical social media
A group of patients were recently asked if they would be willing to link their social media accounts to their EHR for medical research and to aid healthcare development. According to the study published by BMJ Quality and Safety, the overwhelming majority responded favorably, with 71% of patients agreeing to connect the two.
The mining of social media data has recently exploded, with companies recognizing its value as an indicator of consumer preferences and behavior. Now, what we post about our health on social media platforms could help researchers gather even greater insights into the relationship that consumers have between their everyday lives and their health.
More than 1,000 participants agreed to share their data in the study, which captured 1.4 million posts and tweets over a seven-month period from Twitter and Facebook. Researchers then examined Twitter as a potential data source to take a closer look at the perceived quality of care of US hospitals and patient experience.
The study found that patients who shared their social media exhibited the following characteristics:

  •      usually posted at least once a day;
  •      were slightly younger;
  •      were more likely to be privately insured and;
  •      were more likely to take themselves to ER than those who didn’t grant consent to their data.

The researchers and findings suggest that the creation of a database that merges social media data with certified EHR data could provide insights about individuals’ health and health outcomes. Furthermore, it could help researchers explore and understand how patients communicate about their health issues.
The challenge with social media data is the ability to access and transform the information into usable and actionable customer intelligence. However, if done effectively, the study identified the rich potential this data could have – from recognizing individual and group health trends to creating education campaigns and interventions.
This is perhaps just the first study in many to examine the relationship between social media and health. In recent years, social media has become a key part of medical marketing services, and has provided a platform for a sizable shift in healthcare delivery and communication. The future will be in working out how the huge amount of data that is generated via social media can be made interpretable and actionable for patients and providers.

Gretchen Kalthoff

Gretchen Kalthoff

Gretchen Kalthoff is a writer and marketing specialist for MWE. She is an expert in healthcare marketing and health IT with a special interest in increasing patient engagement through social media and healthcare technologies.

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