Table 1

Potential sources of information from social media

Type of sourceExamplesRelevant informationAdvantagesDisadvantages
Rating and feedback websitesRateMDs, YelpRatings and free text descriptions of healthcare providers and individual cliniciansComments usually directly relate to care experienceComparatively low usage, possibility of deliberate gaming
Patient networks and blogsPatientslikeme, Quora, DiggPatients' and caregivers’ shared descriptions of their care and experiencesAuthentic voice of the patient, often well used in specific patient communitiesPossible selection bias towards particular demographics (eg, higher socioeconomic status) or interest groups
Social publishing platforms and microblogsTwitterTweets (short messages) directed towards healthcare organisations (eg, hospitals) or healthcare providersHigh volume of traffic, often tagged with service they relate toShort, unstructured messages may contain minimal information about care quality and experiences
Social networksFacebookComments left on healthcare organisations (eg, hospitals) or friends’ pages about care and experiences, or specific signals of appreciation (eg, likes)High membership and usage by the publicPublic rarely talks about healthcare on these platforms.
Content may be from employees rather than patients
Media-sharing networksInstagram, SnapChat, YouTubeVisual depictions of patient experience (eg, pictures of hospital room amenities or cleanliness)Additional visual dimension to describe the nuances of patient experiencesVisual media often lacks context of situation or sufficient description of supporting details
Bookmarking sitesPinterest, FlipboardCommon items or themes that patients ‘tag’ as being important to them or their experienceAggregates disparate items to curate themes unique to patient's perspective or valuesAccurate curation relies on adequate access and exposure to myriad of social media items or articles
Collaboration toolsWikipediaCollective input of several patients and/or healthcare providers to describe health conditions and care paths, and answer common questionsContinuous refinement of major topics in healthcare that require both patient and provider input; highly interactive collaborationPossible selection bias to include perspectives of only the most engaged patients, healthcare consumers or healthcare providers
Social newsDigg, RedditPatients can ‘vote’ to curate news posted by others that are most informative to the groupIntegrates both a strong content element and patient feedbackLimited insight into individual patient preferences or reaction to particular content
  • Source: Adapted from Greaves et al, 201314 and updated.