Healthcare Info Online: Tweet, tweet, oink, oink…

Finding health information online is easy. We all do it. Ouch, my stomach hurts — Google search. Ouch, my ankle hurts — WebMD search. The information available online for “self-diagnosis” is plentiful. In fact, it’s so easy to find health-related information online that patients are better informed (over-informed or ill-informed sometimes), and the exchange of information is being tested in new mediums.

As new circumstances surface (i.e. Swine flu), where are people finding information and how have these new channels changed our reaction and response to the updates?

Mashable, the social media-focused web publication, has provided much information about how information about swine flu can be found and tracked online. Basically, the article looks primarily at government organizations, Google Alerts, and Travel notices.

But what about the epidemic spread of — not the swine flu virus — but the hysteria about swine flu through social media?

In recent months, tens of thousands of tweets per minute were posted to Twitter related to the swine flu. Whether those involved are worried it will affect them, or think it’s a bunch of over-hyped malarkey, the social exchange around the swine flu has become somewhat of a phenomenon. In my opinion, the utilization of social media to spread information about the swine flu has changed the way people are responding to the disease outbreak.

The swine flu is a little scary — just admit it. Whether you’ve taken to wearing a doctor’s mask, or are one of those who think it’s a media frenzy soon-to-die, no one wants to get it. But ponder your position on the topic for a moment.

Why are you a lot scared, a little scared, hesitant, or just plain “over it”?

I’d venture to say that you: a) have seen so much hoopla over it that you’re convinced it’s got to be the Bubonic plague b) you’ve read a lot of information about the flu and a lot of it is contradictory or c) you’ve read so many hysterical comments about it on Twitter/FaceBook/etc., that you cannot listen to another word.

Because of social media, our responses to situations have changed. We no longer feel like we don’t have enough information — we now have too much information. And it’s not all good. Instead of only dealing with the media’s twist of the topic, we’re now dealing with the opinions of our friends and fans on social networks — not all bad, just more to think about.

In a time where social media allows everyone to become an instant “expert” on a topic — particularly one that can be so emotional — I feel the best thing to do is listen to the experts. The guy who I follow on Twitter who I met at the local pub in college isn’t the expert on the swine flu, even though he says, in less than 140 characters, that it’s bull#@$!. There are organizations out there filled with people who have the real information. Follow them on Twitter, too.