Author(s): Hamm MP, Chisholm A, Shulhan J, Milne A, Scott SD,
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To map the state of the existing literature evaluating the use of social media in patient and caregiver populations. DESIGN: Scoping review. DATA SOURCES: Medline, CENTRAL, ERIC, PubMed, CINAHL Plus Full Text, Academic Search Complete, Alt Health Watch, Health Source, Communication and Mass Media Complete, Web of Knowledge and ProQuest (2000-2012). STUDY SELECTION: Studies reporting primary research on the use of social media (collaborative projects, blogs/microblogs, content communities, social networking sites, virtual worlds) by patients or caregivers. DATA EXTRACTION: Two reviewers screened studies for eligibility; one reviewer extracted data from relevant studies and a second performed verification for accuracy and completeness on a 10\% sample. Data were analysed to describe which social media tools are being used, by whom, for what purpose and how they are being evaluated. RESULTS: Two hundred eighty-four studies were included. Discussion forums were highly prevalent and constitute 66.6\% of the sample. Social networking sites (14.8\%) and blogs/microblogs (14.1\%) were the next most commonly used tools. The intended purpose of the tool was to facilitate self-care in 77.1\% of studies. While there were clusters of studies that focused on similar conditions (eg, lifestyle/weight loss (12.7\%), cancer (11.3\%)), there were no patterns in the objectives or tools used. A large proportion of the studies were descriptive (42.3\%); however, there were also 48 (16.9\%) randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Among the RCTs, 35.4\% reported statistically significant results favouring the social media intervention being evaluated; however, 72.9\% presented positive conclusions regarding the use of social media. CONCLUSIONS: There is an extensive body of literature examining the use of social media in patient and caregiver populations. Much of this work is descriptive; however, with such widespread use, evaluations of effectiveness are required. In studies that have examined effectiveness, positive conclusions are often reported, despite non-significant findings.
This article was published in BMJ Open
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy