Most people still turn to Google to start an information search. But more people are joining online social groups--social networks--devoted to personal health. There they exchange information with others, get support and enjoy the presence of an online community of people like themselves.
So why should corporate wellness professionals care?
- Use of social networks is particularly common for people with chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes--people who are the focus of disease management and employee wellness programs.
- Increasingly, online coaching and disease management services (including, possibly, your vendors) are creating their own online communities to support their efforts.
- Employees, concerned with privacy issues, may be more likely to get involved with groups that their employers and insurers are not involved with.
- It may be possible to leverage these outside online communities to support your program's wellness goals. Weight Watchers, for instance, has very active online user support and information exchanges.
The free 28-page report--The Wisdom of the Patients: Health Meets Online Social Media--is published by the California HealthCare Foundation and available as a PDF. Definitely worth printing out and reading--and sharing with wellness staff and vendors.