With the prevalence of social media, I can’t help but wonder if RA patients are actually getting the important information available to them via these channels.
Having spent my career in corporate communications, I have seen firsthand the enthusiastic embrace of the internet and social media as mainline channels for distributing information. With computers on our desks, tablets in our backpacks and smartphones in our hands, there is instant access to information. There is a lot of important material on new treatments, research, and patient experience that is being shared through computers.
But are RA patients getting the message?
A critical component of any communication project is to understand your audience. That means not only whether they will be interested, but how they receive their information. I found a couple of very enlightening sites that provide research into who uses social media (the links are below — you should check them out). Given the CDC states the highest prevalence of the onset of RA is over 60 years old (about 10 times the number diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 34), I’m not sure that information disseminated through popular social media sites is reaching RA patients. Note the following usage:
Facebook: 11% of users are >55 years old
Instagram: 26% of users are >50 years old
Twitter: 31% of users are >50 years old*
LinkedIn: 44% of users are >50 years old
*Note that 79% of Twitter users are outside the U.S.
Beyond that, across all age groups, in a study focused on science news, about twice as many social media users distrust science posts on social media as trust them.
Based on the above statistics, it’s apparent that information made available via social media has limited reach to a large portion of RA patients. In addition, the majority of people don’t trust science-related information they receive via social media.
I am not suggesting that medical organizations, patient support groups, research teams, or pharmaceutical companies stop using these channels. In addition to the users over 50, there is a significant percentage of patients that are diagnosed at an early age who use them as primary sources. These people not only need critical information related to diagnosis and treatment, they need ongoing support when dealing with issues such as family planning and handling a career with RA, which are not as relevant to the >50 group.
But what needs to happen is a better understanding and usage of the media channels that the majority of RA patients actually use, and these patients are over 50.
I believe that valid information is the most powerful tool that we, as patients, have in our arsenal against RA. We need to have this information delivered in formats we use and trust.
Here are the social media usage research sites I used. They’re pretty interesting.
I hope the information you receive through this site and others that you trust helps empower you to take more control of your treatment and your life. I wish you health, happiness, and many blessings in the coming New Year. Thanks for checking in.