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Social media sites may lure patients to dubious promotions

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Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made it easy for chronic disease sufferers to find support and share information. But according to this American Medical News piece, they're also leaving patients susceptible to advertisers who may be promoting unregulated products or therapies. Harvard researchers recently looked at the promotional activity on 15 Facebook groups dealing with diabetes and:

They found that each group had an average of 9,289 participants. The majority of participants posted only once, but of the 9% who posted three or more times, 30% were clearly promoting products, and 3% of the promotional posts contained inappropriate or unsupported therapeutic claims.

Other research has shed light on inaccurate or misleading health information posted online, and Harvard physician Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD, says this should encourage doctors to have an open dialogue with their patients:

Physicians should be asking patients where they learn about their conditions, where they learn about potential cures or tools to help them manage their conditions, and encourage an open conversation where patients can feel comfortable bringing in information they have learned on social media.

Previously: AMA offers physicians guidance on using social media, Social media brings up questions, ethical unknowns for doctors and Physician 2.0: Do doctors risk becoming irrelevant if they ignore social media?
Photo by liquene

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