Introduction Historically, access to cancer information has been limited to printed literature and discussions with healthcare professionals. Opportunities through social media and digital technology have seen notable success in adolescent and young adult health care. Its application in the adult cancer population has not been evaluated.
Objectives To identify the extent cancer patients engage with social media and explore its potential for providing access to oncology information.
Method Patients/carers attending a UK cancer centre were surveyed about their access to and use of social media. Its application to their healthcare support needs was explored with specific attention to their information media preferences. Non-patient identifiable data, based on a prepared questionnaire were collected via hand held tablets and collated via Survey Monkey.
Results 430 participants, comprising 64% patients and 36% carers/ spouse, completed the survey. Median age was 65 year old: 82% were over 50 and 29% over 70. 16% of patients did not access the Internet whilst 61% used it daily. Only 13% used Twitter, 48% Facebook and 41% YouTube.
Only 8% expressed a preference to receive information by digital media, with the majority favouring face-to-face contact with a healthcare professional (54%) or printed media (18%). Talking to other patients or attending patient support groups were the preference of 11% and 3% of participant's respectively. 6% would seek information themselves using a search engine or visiting of government health website.
Conclusion The majority of patients attending a regional cancer are beyond retirement age with less than 18% under 50 years old. Whilst most have access to the Internet, engagement with Facebook, Twitter and You Tube is uncommon. This suggests a limited role for social
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