Obstacles and Opportunities

Many social media platforms face the challenge of helping patients overcome the intense loneliness that can accompany diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. And the cancer community’s social media platforms seem to provide ample advice in this area.

“So many people have gone through so many cancers and still, for the average cancer patient, cancer is such a lonely experience,” Gaon said. “Instead of walking on a path that has been created by others, many patients feel lost, unequipped, and lacking visibility of the road ahead.”

In addition to these obstacles, patients participating in social media platforms may be at an increased risk for a privacy breach.

The JAPhA article noted that, “one of the major gaps that exists is a lack of investigation into the actual risks with using social media compared with other technologies. Are patients with social media profiles more likely to experience a breach of privacy than patients who stay away from these sites but use electronic mail for communication with a health professional?” 

And the abundance of social media platforms can act as an additional barrier.

“When searching on Google, a patient is presented with an endless list of links. And when searching on social networks, one is presented with an ocean of ‘feed,’” Gaon noted. “But patients and their families often like to see the slightly bigger picture: a glimpse of the road ahead based on the experiences of others.”

But by outlining a possible path and organizing those steps, patients with cancer just beginning the journey will “have torchlights where others had only darkness,” Gaon said.

The Future for Social Media Platforms in Cancer

The future of social media platforms seems positive for patients with cancer, their friends and families, and their nurses and nurse practitioners. The potential for these platforms to overcome loneliness and isolation while providing credible health care communication poise them to become integral to the cancer care community.

“In 10 years, [Wisdo hopes] to be perceived as a company and movement that has improved human lives by creating a world in which people in need always know what to expect and never ever feel lonely,” Gaon said. “We think it’s a worthy mission — one worth dedicating our lives to.”

Reference

1. Mattingly TJ 2nd. Innovative patient care practices using social media. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2015;55(3):288-293.