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Does Social Media Break Down Valid Health Information?

This is the era of evidence-based social media as more and more papers focusing on medicine and social media are coming out. An interesting paper was published a few days ago in the American Journal of Infection Control. Scanfeld et al. tried to reveal the rate of misunderstanding or misuse of antibiotics in Twitter messages in their study: Dissemination of health information through social networks: Twitter and antibiotics.

BACKGROUND: This study reviewed Twitter status updates mentioning “antibiotic(s)” to determine overarching categories and explore evidence of misunderstanding or misuse of antibiotics.

METHODS: One thousand Twitter status updates mentioning antibiotic(s) were randomly selected for content analysis and categorization. To explore cases of potential misunderstanding or misuse, these status updates were mined for co-occurrence of the following terms: “cold + antibiotic(s),” “extra + antibiotic(s),” “flu + antibiotic(s),” “leftover + antibiotic(s),” and “share + antibiotic(s)” and reviewed to confirm evidence of misuse or misunderstanding.

RESULTS: Of the 1000 status updates, 971 were categorized into 11 groups. Cases of misunderstanding or abuse were identified for the following combinations: “flu + antibiotic(s)” (n = 345), “cold + antibiotic(s)” (n = 302), “leftover + antibiotic(s)” (n = 23), “share + antibiotic(s)” (n = 10), and “extra + antibiotic(s)” (n = 7).

CONCLUSION: Social media sites offer means of health information sharing. Further study is warranted to explore how such networks may provide a venue to identify misuse or misunderstanding of antibiotics, promote positive behavior change, disseminate valid information, and explore how such tools can be used to gather real-time health data.

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*


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