Sunday, October 19, 2008

Twitter for health?

PF Anderson from the University of Michigan recently posted a slideshow that suggests (among a zillion other interesting ideas), that micoblogging with Twitter can be used to do personal health behavior logs. For instance, a patient with diabetes, might send a text message from their phone every time they check their blood sugar.

It's a very interesting idea. I was involved a few years back with Interactive Voice Response Telephony (IVR "Press 1 if you want accounts, press 2 if you....") for depression and asthma. Patients would enter their symptoms, medication adherence, and other pertinent events. The system would summarize the patient's course and periodically send an up date to the patient and the provider. Some patents loved it, some loathed it. John Helzer and Magdalena Naylor at The University of Vermont have had very good results using it for problem drinking and chronic pain.

Can we provide decision support to patients this way? The biggest problem with all health diaries is patient adherence. The good thing is that Twitter might make it easier for some patients to make entries. The bad thing is that incomplete data is sometimes worse than no data at all. Of course, Twitter can "nudge" a user to make an entry, so maybe that will help.

Anybody have any experience with Twitter or other such systems for communication with patients?


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