Evidence-based web 2.0

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Evidence-based application of social media is an emerging informatics field (more research is needed)
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  • Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, February 2018


See also Blogs | Emerging evidence in web 2.0 medical literature | Evidence-based health care | Health 2.0 | Medicine 2.0 | Using web 2.0 tools in health research at UBC

"...evaluating the adoption of (social media) technologies should be evidence-based..." — Giustini, Hooker, Grajales, 2011

The systematic study of social media in health and medicine is moving beyond its early formative stages towards a more evidence and research-based era. In 2014, there have been several systematic reviews of the literature (see Google scholar search) such as this recent review in Academic Medicine: Cheston CC et al. Social media use in medical education: a systematic review. Acad Med. 2013 Apr 24.. A group of German researchers also published a systematic review on the use of social media in medical education (Hollinderbäumer, 2013).

Judging from the rise of research into the use of social media in medicine, 2012-2014 were high-water mark years in assessing the usefulness and value of tools such as Twitter and Facebook. In addition, there are two conferences that examine health 2.0 and medicine 2.0 empirically and both have generated considerable evidence for practitioners, patients and policy-makers to consider in their application of social media. Given health librarians' roles in advising health professionals about social media, building the evidence base in social media is absolutely critical to legitimize the field. In this discussion, some of the questions that require exploration include:

  • Which social media tools are most useful for health professionals?
  • Are physicians different from nurses or pharmacists in their use of web 2.0 tools?
  • If physicians want to explore web 2.0 tools, where should they first be pointed?
  • Where is the evidence that social media will help a family physician in his information practices and research?

Web 2.0 research questions

"...social media has broadly affected medicine, perhaps most publicly by enabling increased communication with and among patients. Examples include emergency broadcasts during natural disasters, access to free (but often questionable) medical information online, and virtual patient communities..." — von Muhlen et al, 2012
  • What research or evidence exists that web 2.0 (social media) tools are useful in medicine (or any field)?
  • An evidence "base" is growing with a surge of interest in Facebook and Twitter (see below)
  • What is the connection between web 2.0 and teaching? Interdisciplinary practice?
  • Are physicians & health librarians just as likely to use anecdotal reports and intuition as to what is optimum in using web 2.0?
  • What kinds of studies have been done thus far (i.e. surveys, case studies, etc.)?
  • Are there any good studies of the use of social software in medicine? in the area of health librarianship?
  • For physicians new to web 2.0, where is a good place to start (based on the cited evidence)?
  • Do medical school programs expect students to have web 2.0 literacy and digital fluency?
  • Is the effective use of social software mentioned in the context of medical informatics?
  • What are differences between med students who are digital natives and those who can be described as digital immigrants?
  • In terms of belonging to social groups, and social interaction, does web 2.0 have potential health benefits for users?

Sarah Stewart on EBM 2.0?

As a health professional I welcome evidence-based practice. It is vital that my practice is based on the latest up to date information so that the care I provide ...is the best, based on what we currently know. However, I feel it is vital we integrate the principles of Web 2.0 into our practice so that evidence-based information is freely available to all, health practitioners and consumers. That we work together to share and collaborate, and find alternative ways of communicating and disseminating information to the traditional journals that are locked up, and only available to those who can afford to pay to read them. How do you think we can use online tools such as blogs and wikis to disseminate evidence based information? What are the problems with utilising information in practice that is not published in conventional medical, peer-reviewed journals? How do we overcome fears about credibility? — EBM vs 2.0

Concerns expressed about web 2.0 in biomedicine

  • Physicians do not have time to learn about (or use) web 2.0
  • Social networking compromises patient safety, patient confidentiality and is intrusive
  • Social networks rely on network effects; it takes time to build a social network (no members means no network)
  • Scientists are not social when they are working; they are looking for solutions not people
  • Social tools must help to solve existing (and pressing) problems; they must fit existing workflows
  • Must outperform existing tools and services should have 100% reliability
  • Unless social networks are useful, don't expect users to come to a wasteland; they won’t
  • Post-docs need to communicate with each other face-to-face not online
  • We are too dependent on mobile devices such as iPhone; go to the patient!

An early definition (Giustini, 2010)

"...evidence-based web 2.0 (EBW2) is the integration of the best available evidence of social software usage in promoting effective time and information management skills in the digital age. In addition to allocating time for experimentation, heuristics and 'play', physicians, librarians and information specialists will need to systematically evaluate EBW2 and build a better evidence-base given the future applications of tools."


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