Community As Part of the Prescription: Social Media in Diabetes Care
AJMC Managed Markets Network
Published Online: November 18, 2015
Kerri Sparling; Amy Tenderich, MA; and Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE
In April 2015, Kerri Sparling; Amy Tenderich, MA; and Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, participated in the panel discussion, “Community as Part of the Prescription: Social Media in Diabetes Care,” during Patient-Centered Diabetes Care, a conference jointly presented by The American Journal of Managed Care and Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. This article is based on the themes outlined during that session and recent research on the use of social media to improve diabetes management.
Sparling, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age 7, is a diabetes advocate who writes the blog, Six Until Me. Tenderich was diagnosed with T1D at age 37; a technology writer, she founded DiabetesMine, which was acquired this year by San Francisco-based Healthline Networks. Both Tenderich and Sparling are listed among the top online influencers for diabetes by ShareCare.1 Warshaw is a diabetes educator, dietitian, freelance writer, and the owner of Hope Warshaw Associates, LLC. She was an early adopter of social media and has actively supported the growth and importance of the diabetes online community (DOC) among healthcare providers.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN DIABETES CARE
The use of social media among people with diabetes, and people and professionals who support them, has experienced tremendous growth since its initiation about 10 years ago. This demonstrates the need for clinicians to encourage engagement as complementary to clinical care. People with diabetes, both T1D and type 2 diabetes (T2D), want and need practical information about living with their disease around-the-clock, 365 days a year, as well as feedback from a community of individuals who share similar experiences. Through social media, people with diabetes find their tribe, their peers, and their comrades who are all on a unique journey. Those seeking to connect have a way of finding each other—the Twitter hashtag #DOC allows anyone on Twitter to follow the tweets of the “Diabetes Online Community.”2
Since social media emerged in 2005,3 the number and diversity of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs that allow 2-way interaction between the account creator and readers or followers have increased dramatically. A recent report in Current Diabetes Review by Hilliard et al on the evolution of the DOC, found more than 1000 Facebook groups with the word “diabetes” as of September 2014, and a weekly 1-hour Twitter forum that draws 60 to 100 participants. The report also outlined the variety of online communication venues, including social media.2
The “Learn, Engage, Connect” resource guide (links to the resource can be found within Warshaw’s website at http://www.hopewarshaw.com/diabetes-online-community) was developed by DOC members to assist clinicians to identify and provide clients with a starter guide to websites, personal blogs, and online forums where people living with diabetes can connect with others and find reliable information.4 Our own experience has shown that especially among people with T1D and their families, there is great desire to share: on Twitter alone, DiabetesMine has more than 25,000 followers and the Six Until Me account has more than 21,200 followers.
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