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Guest Moderator Series: Who has the power? Impact, analytics and ethics of social health

September 6, 2012

Different people contribute in different ways to the #hcsmca community. Guest moderating is one option. Moderators are always welcome to blog about their experience or provide a summary of their chat. Here is Ashley Weinhandl‘s contribution to this growing Guest Moderator Series

By: Ashley Weinhandl

When Colleen Young suggested I host the #hcsmca twitter chat on August 29th, I jumped at the opportunity to lead such a lively discussion and get more involved with the #hcsmca community.

Being a host from the @hcsmca account and tweeting from my personal account @ashleyweinhandl was a different experience, but definitely worthwhile. I’d like to share with you what I learned from the discussion.

T1: Campaigns like #GetFit encourage sharing your healthy lifestyle through social media. Do you think this creates lasting healthy change?

Many tweeps mentioned that these types of campaigns are fantastic motivators to start living a healthy lifestyle but the true value of creating lasting healthy change requires metrics post-campaign. I completely agree. Metrics are extremely important in determining the short-term and long-term value of any campaign.

Below are a few of my main takeaways:

  1. Health focused campaigns make individuals accountable to their online network (yes, guilt works).
  2. Social media provides a virtual support network of like-minded individuals who users wouldn’t have met otherwise.
  3. Individuals are able to leverage the collective wisdom of the group interested in healthy living.
  4. These campaigns create competition with others to help achieve individual health goals, specifically when gaming is involved.
  5. The idea that these virtual campaigns improve public health still remains to be seen.

T2a: From a patient perspective, are analytics like Top Influencers helpful as a discovery tool in their disease experience?

The group questioned what really determined a Top Influencer and if that made a difference to them. Many argued that they determine their own Top Influencers. Symplur co-founders @hjluks@tmlfox and @audvin clarified that Top Influencers are based not on ranking but discovery. Top Influencers are about helping patients who feel overwhelmed with their health concerns find a group they can relate to and gather information from.

Utilizing Top Influencers is definitely a valuable first step for patients looking to gather information and support when feeling alone with their disease or health concern. However, it is not the only resource that should be used. Like any information on the Internet, patients need to be aware of the source and the validity of the information provided.

T2b: Do you see an ethical problem with companies mining people’s public tweets for analytical purposes? Where should the line be drawn?

It was stated that users have the option to make their tweets private, thus many saw no problem with mining their data – it’s already public. Don’t tweet publicly if you want to remain private.

Data collection through tweets should be handled in a way that will not reveal true identities. It was also suggested the line should be drawn to what the Federal Government allows for university research. Ideally, data collected should be transparent and open to the public. The power of the data is in its reliability, validity, generalizability and aggregation. All in all, who is analyzing this data and for what purpose really determines the ethics of the analytics.

Social impact, analytics and ethics made for a lively, informative and dynamic hour with #hcsmca. There were a variety of diverse opinions allowing us to expand our minds and consider ideas we hadn’t thought of before. Here’s the transcript.

For me, it was a valuable learning experience. I look forward to future discussions and encourage others to try their hand at moderating.

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