You may already use Facebook to find old friends and your smartphone to check email. But did you know high-tech gadgets and networks can also connect you with medical resources?
Depending on your health needs, technology may be just what the doctor ordered. If you’re looking for:
Up-to-the-minute news about disease outbreaks and disasters. Turn to Twitter. The CDC sends instant updates, or “Tweets,” that are 140 characters or less.
Personal stories about a medical condition. Search blogs and the video site YouTube. Some patients who go online already turn to blogs to read about others’ health experiences. One recent study found that cancer survivors and caregivers who share their stories on video improve their own health in addition to that of their audience.
Help managing chronic conditions. Try a smartphone. Programs for these phones are called applications, or apps. Some might give you reminders about checking your blood glucose if you have diabetes. Others can send test results to your doctor. You can also download a stress management app from the Department of Defense. Personal health record apps can help you keep track of your medications and dosages, surgeries, lab results, blood pressure, doctor visits, and appointment reminders. Nutrition apps can help you keep an accurate log of your diet, while fitness apps can help you keep a log of your physical activity.
Health messages to share with friends and family. Send an e-card. Have a cousin who is newly pregnant or a parent with diabetes? Share words of support that link to reliable medical information. Find a few from the CDC or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Timely reminders about health topics and wellness events. Find out on Facebook. Hospitals are most likely to post news and health messages on Facebook, the largest social-media site. Associations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the National Institutes of Health also provide Facebook updates about medical issues.
Take steps to ensure your high-tech sources are reliable. Look first to pages and services sponsored by reputable organizations. These include the U.S. government, a university, a national association such as the American Heart Association, or a hospital. Also, carefully check privacy policies before sharing personal information.