News Feature | February 29, 2016

Social Media As Gateway To Chronic Disease Care Studied

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Social Media Health Policy

Social networking technology is being used to deliver mental health services.

The Young Adult and Family Center at the University of California at San Francisco’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics is exploring new ground in the treatment of mental health. They have been using private and secured social networking technology to deliver services to adolescents, young adults, and veterans who might not otherwise receive the necessary care.

Dr. Kim Norman, professor of adolescent and young adult health at the University of California San Francisco, heads the program that uses private personal health social networks to create scalable clinical interventions that overcome barriers of distance, stigma, and expense that often prohibit access to healthcare for remote patients.

Clinical programs use cloud-based, medical-grade records and match up patients with families and other non-medical caretakers to provide them with access to relevant data. Norman said healing is social and technology can create collaborative care “and secure social media can serve as a virtual psychotherapy office.” He is applying this concept to integrate mental health services into chronic disease care using personal social networks.

According to a Deloitte brief, “Social networks hold considerable potential value for healthcare organizations because they can be used to reach stakeholders, aggregate information and leverage collaboration.” Currently, approximately one-third of American who research their health online also current use social networks to find fellow patients to discuss their conditions, and 36 percent of social network users evaluate and leverage knowledge of other consumers before making their final healthcare decisions. This idea provides some of the justification for the program at UCSF.

Dr. Norman,who will present an educational session regarding the center’s pioneering healthcare IT work at HIMSS16 titled Create Chronic Disease Services Using Secure Social Networks , told Government Health IT that UCSF is using these social networks to create scalable clinical interventions that “allow us to overcome the barriers of distance, a dearth of clinical resources, stigma, and expense that make it so hard for us to provide quality healthcare services to remote and underserved populations.”

In a PowerPoint from her HIMSS presentation, Norman highlights the fact secure social patient networks improve access to care, increase the scope and depth of collaboration by care teams, support digital therapeutics that are simultaneously targeted and scalable, and returns storytelling to the practice of medicine.

“Technology can create true collaborative care among multiple providers in multiple systems of care, and secure social media can serve as a virtual psychotherapy office,” Norman said. “My colleagues and I also are focusing on integrating mental health services into medical care programs for chronic diseases using personal social networks, including to deliver better cancer, diabetes and dementia care.”

“We use private, secure social networks to build longitudinal relationships with our patients and their families to extend care beyond the traditional points of service into the home, school and community, and, for the first time, to integrate behavioral health and the social context of patient care within chronic disease care programs,” Norman explained. “We believe this is the future of chronic disease care.”

Norman’s session, “Create Chronic Disease Services Using Secure Social Networks,” is slated for March 2, 2016, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Galileo 1004.