Applying the social support theory with social media in the field of chronic diseases

Anna Sendra, Department of Communication Studies, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, Spain) & Jordi Farré, Department of Communication Studies, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, Spain)

Social media could be a breakthrough in the treatment and self-management of healthcare in the next years, especially for chronic disease patients. In platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and similar, patients’ have found diverse types of social support that are usually missing in their daily lives. In these spaces, it has been proven that chronic pain sufferers are actively communicating each other, but physicians are falling behind. They tend to be reluctant to manage patients’ health with these social technologies as well as healthcare organizations need to discover how they can use digital platforms to improve the relationship with their patients.

Bearing this scenario in mind, the goals of this study are (1) to determine how many initiatives exist in social media that have been applying the social support theory in the field of chronic diseases; and (2) to provide a list of recommendations about how health institutions can improve the communication with their patients in social media relating to advances in health communication theory.

Following the PRISMA recommendations for improving the publication of systematic reviews, we conducted a search in the Web of Science Core Collection using the following keywords (chronic (disease OR illness) AND social support) AND (social media), obtaining 94 results. Additional 7 papers were added, leaving a final corpus of 101 registers to be analysed. Finally, a total of 32 articles were selected for a full-text in-depth review.

This is a research in progress at the beginning of data analysis and results development.