I, like Dr Black, was sceptical about Twitter at first. When I lost a job on health grounds and had to move back to Dorset from London and find a new career, I first discovered the potential of Twitter - as a research tool. Locked away in Dorset with fluctuating mobility and energy, I could still be a part of the world in London: the Department of Health, the think-tanks and everything else, just through Twitter. I found links to articles and created a network of information from my bed, without putting my already weak body under any more strain! On a professional level, Twitter keeps me abreast of all the news in healthcare and the NHS, and gives me the opportunity to find out about events/articles I would have never found out about otherwise, and has supported my professional work enormously.
Then I got more into it and began to connect with individuals who had the same conditions as me - it was deeply reassuring to know that I wasn't the only one out there, and to have others understand when I had a bad day. Having rarer conditions, I can really appreciate these opportunities to connect with others, as it never happens in real life. On a personal level, Twitter is reassuring and comforting - the word community is sometimes overused, but is most appropriate for patients online I think. This is exemplified by WEGO Health - an online community of health activists which shows the potential of social media in the context of patient support. I am a regular on #hachat and #nhssm and find them a great source of support and sharing ideas with other patients who are inspiring in their use of social media.
Obviously many of you may be reading this through a bit.ly link on a Tweet too . . . It is great for spreading the word about my blog too, which has been a real lifeline for me as a patient, finding my direction after illness turned everything upside down and inside out. An outlet for my frustrations, thoughts and general musings on life with long-term health conditions. But it has been inspired by Twitter too - by discussions I have joined (see #IntegratedCare) and Tweets I have seen (Goals . . . ), and even this post!
The benefits of social media are well documented for patients and are behind the new generation of empowered patients that are changing the ways healthcare is delivered in the UK. I hope I am just one example of the personal and professional power that Twitter can give patients!
What is the power of Twitter?