Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Benefits and Barriers of Pediatric Healthcare Providers toward Using Social Media in Asthma Care

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Benefits and Barriers of Pediatric Healthcare Providers toward Using Social Media in Asthma Care

Article excerpt


Background: Adolescents with asthma are the least compliant age group for asthma management. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of two pediatric physician groups towards using social media technology (SMT) to improve asthma management in adolescents. Methods: We employed in-depth interviews and a focus group to understand pediatric attending physicians' and residents' perspectives of SMT use in asthma management. We analyzed data using the constant comparative method. Results: Physicians acknowledge the importance of health education for asthma management and the potential for SMT. Identified benefits include enhanced understanding of how adolescents perceive asthma, improved patient-provider relationships, the availability of an interactive venue and an additional way to provide accurate information to asthmatic teens. The barriers consisted of time constraints during office hours, personal commitments, work schedules, lack of comfort with the technology and perceived liability issues. Discussion: SMT is considered a valuable tool to reach this target population. The barriers of using SMT need to be overcome for voluntary adoption to occur. Translation to Health Education Practice: SMTs may provide a dynamic platform for both health education and allow physicians to better understand the needs and wants of adolescents with chronic diseases.


As the 2 pt century unfolds, information technology is predicted to influence the methods by which patients receive health education--"Information technology will be used to change the way care is delivered from an approach centered on the physician visit to one in which tools such as email and Internet-based health information provide continuous communication and information flow between clinicians and patients." (1(p570)) Information from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that nearly 75% of U.S. adults are regular Internet users, and of these, 80% participate in groups. (2)

Use of these technologies is prolific in the U.S., with adolescents representing the most avid users of the Internet. Two-thirds of teen Internet users go online daily and often participate in social network websites. The percentage of adolescents who are online consumers and who use social network websites has been climbing since 2008, reaching 73% in the last year. (2)

One-third of online teens search the Internet for health, physical fitness and dieting information. Older teens (14-17 years of age) are more likely to search for online health information, including sensitive topics such as drugs, depression, and sexual health that are sometimes difficult to discuss. (2) The clear growth in the use of social media technology (SMT) emboldens the resolve to develop disease management tools that incorporate these technologies. SMT encompasses an array of innovations that move non-interactive and individual Internet use toward what is currently defined as "Web 2.0," or technology features with the capacity for dynamic interaction among users, including social networking sites. (3)

The Internet provides a medium for patients and healthcare providers to communicate, and has been suggested as a tool to monitor and manage chronic diseases. Some research indicates that patients desire a highly interactive web-based plan that is directly linked with their physician's office for real-time treatment. (4) In fact, the use of social media in the health care field has been indisputably growing during the last decade. SMT currently occupies special functionalities in chronic disease management. (5-6) International researchers have noted the benefits of using SMT to manage chronic illnesses and the barriers that prevent the wide use of such technology. (4-10)

SMT also has been called participatory web (3) as patients are no longer passive viewers of information but rather active participants in online communities. …

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