Accuracy of online medical information: the case of social media in sickle cell disease

Nichole Slick*, Prasad Bodas, Sherif M. Badawy, Beth Wildman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The medical needs of individuals with sickle cell disease (SCD) are complex. Patients with SCD experience complications such as recurrent pain episodes and increased hospitalizations. Over 70% of AYA and their parents seek medical information from the Internet; 83% inquire on sites that have interactive/social features, such as Facebook or Twitter, yet accuracy remains unclear. Our objective was to assess the accuracy of the SCD-information posted on social media. We hypothesized that most of the posted information is inaccurate. We coded one month of threads from two common SCD Facebook groups (Sickle Cell Warriors Unity and Sickle Cell Anemia) to identify the purpose of each post and the accuracy of medical information posted. Amongst both social media sites, there were 487 posts. Most of the posts were directed toward socializations (n = 311, 63.8%), while other posts mainly focused mainly on SCD and its management (n = 173, 35.5%). When looking at the medical posts, 44.9% were accurate, whereas 55.1% of the posts included inaccurate information. We found that less than half of the medical information posted on interactive social media is inaccurate. Our findings raise potentially serious implications for individuals with SCD and/or their caregivers who may rely on social media to gather more information about their or their child’s disease. Our data highlight the importance of health care providers encouraging patients and parents to ask any questions they may have about SCD, given they may consult social media and Internet site that provide inaccurate information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatric Hematology and Oncology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Adolescent and young adult
  • medical accuracy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Hematology
  • Oncology

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