New Book Explores How Social Media Can Improve Health Care

Dr. Bian's headshotWith the rapid increase in popularity of social media, UF Health researchers are exploring the many ways it can be used to improve health care.

Jiang Bian, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics (HOBI), and three other editors just published “Social Web and Health Research: Benefits, Limitations, and Best Practices,” a book that gives researchers, providers and patients insight into the growing role of social media in modern health care.

“Social web platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and online discussion forums afford us enormous opportunities to understand the intersections of individual behaviors, social-environmental factors, and social interactions,” the editors wrote in the book’s preface. Other editors include HOBI Assistant Professor Yi Guo, Ph.D., Zhe He, Ph.D., with the School of Information at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and Xia Hu, Ph.D., with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University in College Park.

The book, a compendium of articles on a variety of topics by 37 leading researchers in related fields, describes how social media can be used to recruit study participants for clinical research, to improve patient and provider interactions, and to improve accessibility to public health information.

“The social web is not just a ‘new’ data source,” Bian said. “It’s also an emerging tool for promoting public health information and wellness.”

According to Bian, social media’s role in public health does raise some ethical questions, such as privacy concerns, but ultimately holds exponential opportunities.

As social media continues to influence the health care landscape, Bian believes there are even more uses to be discovered.

“People want their voices to be heard, and they voluntarily share a critical mass of data on social web platforms,” he said. “Our research has shown that we can mine the social web for invaluable insights into public and consumer health.”