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The role of social media around patient experience and engagement
  1. Ronen Rozenblum1,2,
  2. Felix Greaves3,4,
  3. David W Bates1,2
  1. 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK
  4. 4Commonwealth Fund, Harkness Fellowship Program in Health Care Policy and Practice, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Ronen Rozenblum, Division of General Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02120, USA; RROZENBLUM{at}PARTNERS.ORG

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Social media usage has become a cultural norm in the USA. Overall, 76% of online adults in the USA use social media.1 And it is not just a phenomenon embraced by the young—31% of all seniors are on Facebook.2 With growing engagement across demographics, social media networks offer new platforms of digital interaction at a scale that is hard to comprehend—313 million active Twitter users sending half a billion tweets and 1.9 billion Facebook accounts uploading 350 million photos every day. SnapChat has created some of the country's youngest billionaires. All these activities, driven by the public's desire to curate and share life experiences, provide new opportunities to observe and understand lived reality in greater detail and closer to real time than ever before.

Concurrently, the concept of patient centredness, whether through better understanding of the patient experience, or better engagement with the patient in healthcare delivery, has gained increased importance in our perception of quality of care. For example, the ‘Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems’ (HCAHPS) is now required nationally in the USA, providing a standardised survey instrument and data collection methodology for measuring patients' perspectives on hospital care. The results are available to the public, and more importantly, directly linked to payment. But despite these patient-centred efforts and assessments, many healthcare organisations have struggled to transform their organisational culture from provider-focused to patient-centric, as well as learning from patient experience feedback to help determine how to better engage with patients at scale.3–5

Historically, healthcare has been managed mainly via interpersonal communication between the healthcare provider and the patient, one-to-one, and typically face-to-face; in this traditional arrangement, the information balance favoured providers more than patients. Today, patterns of interpersonal communication have been irreversibly changed by the internet and social media. Although there is …

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