UK policy on social networking sites and online health: From informed patient to informed consumer?
2055207615592513 - ?
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Background: Social networking sites offer new opportunities for communication between and amongst health care professionals, patients and members of the public. In doing so, they have the potential to facilitate public access to health care information, peer-support networks, health policy fora and online consultations. Government policies and guidance from professional organisations have begun to address the potential of these technologies in the domain of health care and the responsibilities they entail for their users. Objective: Adapting a discourse analytic framework for the analysis of policy documents, this review paper critically examines discussions of social networking sites in recent government and professional policy documents. It focuses particularly on who these organisations claim should use social media, for what purposes, and what the anticipated outcomes of use will be for patients and the organisations themselves. Conclusion: Recent policy documents have configured social media as a new means with which to harvest patient feedback on health care encounters and communicate health care service information with which patients and the general public can be 'empowered' to make responsible decisions. In orienting to social media as a vehicle for enabling consumer choice, these policies encourage the marketization of health information through a greater role for non-profit and commercial organisations in the eHealth domain. At the same time, current policy largely overlooks the role of social media in mediating ongoing support and self-management for patients with long-term conditions.