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And it seems many of us are more than willing to share. The study followed thousands of patients in an emergency department and found 71 percent agreed to let doctors access their social media accounts.
Researchers analyzed content from as far back as 2009—nearly 1.4 million posts and tweets and 12 million words—and were able to glean some trends. They found people with specific medical diagnoses talked about their symptoms online, which could help doctors track their conditions. There were also some explicit posts that could help speed diagnoses in an emergency room, such as "I forgot to take my water pill for my heart failure today."
More subtle health behaviour history could come from, say, a series of photos with salty foods, because consuming excess salt can increase risk for a number of conditions, including heart disease.
The future of health care?
Researchers believe cognitive function issues might one day be detected amidst variations in word use or even the number of words used in each sentence. This use of Twitter and Facebook data is just one of many ways the medical professionals are considering the role of social media in their work.
Monitoring social media in general may help doctors and other health care providers understand current thinking among the general public about issues such as vaccines or about new health headlines such as those about sugar or fat.
Get more ideas on how to get the most out of your doctor’s visit and discover four clever smartphone health tools.