Social media 'can help to engage lupus sufferers'

Published on 12 November 2013
Social media 'can help to engage lupus sufferers'

A new study from the US has shed light on the potentially positive impact that social media can have on the lives of patients with lupus and other similar chronic diseases.

The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City recently joined forces with the SLE Lupus Foundation, a charitable organisation, to carry out Facebook chat sessions for lupus patients in order to educate them on their disease and underline the importance of maintaining relationships with rheumatologists.

Results presented at the American College of Rheumatology annual meeting in San Diego showed how these online chat sessions were able to raise awareness of the condition, reach a wider audience, allow for interaction between patients and healthcare providers and answer patients' questions about lupus.

It was also observed that the hospital was able to greatly increase participation in the Facebook chats after partnering with the SLE Lupus Foundation, thanks to its status as a community-based organisation.

Two online sessions organised by HSS alone were viewed by around 2,200 users each, whereas the jointly-organised chat event received a total of 6,624 views, with 123 active participants from six countries.

Dr Jane Salmon, director of the Lupus Center of Excellence and senior author of the study, said: "The findings suggest that collaboration between healthcare providers and disease-specific community organisations can enhance patient participation and increase our ability to educate patients about staying healthy."

Support structures of this kind are vital for lupus sufferers, given its status as a chronic and poorly-understood condition that can be extremely debilitating and even life-threatening in certain circumstances.

A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK, which has its own Facebook page and tweets regularly to an increasing number of followers, commented: "Social media has an important part to play in enabling people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions to feel supported and informed."