Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist
I recently read with interest an article in theGuardian which gave a personal account of why people blog about their illness.Not just any normal flu or cold, but serious, chronic or terminalconditions. The subject of the article,Sue Eckstein, had recently had one leg amputated and had blogged about herfeelings before and after the operation. Her blog is both insightful andhumorous, and gives the impression that people who blog about illness are braveand courageous. They are inviting us into their lives on a regular basis tohelp us understand what they are experiencing.
Upon reading other illness blogs, such as 365 days with Cushing’s disease,DoctorBlue’sBlog, Survive the Journey and The Knock On Effect, it appears thatillness bloggers find much solace in blogging on a regular basis, with manyposting on their blog at any cost – Sue Eckstein, for example, wrote on scrapsof paper or dictated her blog post to others when she did not have access toher laptop. This point is also reiterated in comments on a study being runvia the web about why people blog about illness.
Blogging about an illness also lets a person share theirexperience with others – family, friends and strangers. It helps family andfriends stay up to date with experiences and progress, and helps strangersunderstand more about the disease. I know from personal experience that theInternet does help people monitor loved ones when affected by illness. Thisweek my brother, who lives on the other side of the world, managed to get his handstuck between an electric saw and a piece of wood and the photos being sent viaFacebook and email of him smiling in his hospital bed sent an enormous wave ofrelief through me. This communication via the web surpassed any grainy ordelayed international phone call attempts – if only he started a blog!
Like writing a diary, blogging about an illness seems to bea means to heal. Blogging is more than a diary, however, as it is able to beshared, therefore enhancing the social connection that is so often needed whena patient is bed-ridden or confined to rest at home.
I know of a hospital which recently provided a fantasticInternet service to long stay patients on its spinal ward. Patients on thisward are often in hospital for up to six months. What astounded me is that thiswas only a new development - I could not imagine being in one place for such along time with no decent Internet access. Patient feedback from the first fewmonths of the service demonstrated an increase in psychological wellbeing andthe feeling of being connected with the outside world. In light of the benefitsof blogging about illness, wouldn’t it be great if these hospital patients weregiven a 30 minute introductory lesson on how to write a blog?
Blogging about illness has many benefits, and I know that Iwill now pay more attention to these blogs, as a means to learn and understand.Here’s hoping that more patients in the future are able to take up blogging toshare and document their experience on the web.