The Impact of Social Media on the Relationship between Patients and Health Professionals: The Use of Whatsapp in the Chronic Desease Management

Friday, 20 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Gea DUCCI, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
Lella MAZZOLI, Università di Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy
The digital revolution, in particular the widespread use of social and participatory web (web 2.0), has led to a profound change in the health field. This change involves a review of traditional ways of thinking and managing the relationship between health organizations, health professionals and citizens -patients.

The birth of "e-patient" has created a citizen's empowerment towards managing his health due to the ability to acquire more information, to generate content and to exchange experiences in Internet, through the activity of social networking and the use of apps or digital devices enabling self-monitoring. This is a new condition in which people get benefits but take also serious risks (false informations, misleading relations, with problems of Health Literacy).

Health professionals also are using Internet and social media, and in particular the use of WhatsApp by doctors is growing rapidly, not only to communicate within organizations, but also to exchange information and to maintain a relationship with patients.

We therefore propose a critical reflection on the ambivalent implications that the use of this social network involves the relationship between health professional and patient, taking into consideration the case of the management of a chronic disease (diabetes): what is the impact on taking care of the patient and on disease management? What are the criteria, the level of awareness and the sense of responsibility with which health professionals use this means of digital communication and inhabit the current medial ecosystem? In this regard, we illustrate the results of a qualitative research, conducted by carrying out in-depth interviews with Italian diabetologists in the last quarter of 2016.