A review of the research and evidence for the use of social network sites (SNS) to improve cardiovascular health, “Digital social networks and health," was published in the 30 April 2013 issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association. In this article, Alex Bornkessel (aka Social Butterfly) and I document the emergence of social media, and specifically SNS, and their impact on health information-seeking and health-related behaviors. We survey user behavior on SNS to document how health information is being transformed from an individual or clinical endeavor into a social health experience, and the implications this has for patient privacy and confidentiality in digital social networks. The research evidence for how SNS may influence health behaviors is also reviewed. We conclude by offering recommendations for practice to optimize the use of social media and its contribution to improved health outcomes, and pose a series of questions to guide the development of a research agenda in this area. The article is available for free download.
"Social media, and especially SNS, are moving us away from an individual view of health to one that encompasses social connections among patients, their families and caregivers, and their healthcare provider team. New media technologies are going to increase and sustain this trend. We have shown that the research evidence is quite limited for how SNS can be effectively and efficiently used to improve health in an equitable way across the population. We have demonstrated where and how SNS can be put into practice now, and identified some of the important concerns and questions that research in this area might address" (Lefebvre & Bornkessel, 2013, p. 1835).
Lefebvre, R.C. & Bornkessel, A.S. Digital social networks and health. Circulation, 2013; 127:1829-1836.