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Hurricane Sandy “slapped the snark out of Twitter” for media reporter David Carr. In his column today, Carr discusses a newfound sense of community, which will sound familiar to anyone who uses social media to navigate an acute or chronic health condition:

– Twitter turns serious during a crisis

– Certain users and hashtags can yield very useful – even life-saving – information

– Posting and RT’ing make you feel like you’re contributing to the public good

– Both global and local information can be meaningful in a crisis

– Misinformation spreads – and can be stamped out – very quickly

My favorite line is Carr’s description of an evening without power: “We built a fire and sat around a hand-cranked radio, but I was diverted over and over by the little campfire of Twitter posts on my smartphone.” How many of us have felt the same way about the campfire of a hashtag like #bcsm or #whatifhc or the bonfire of comments on a favorite blog or health care discussion site? The camaraderie will warm your spirit, yes, but you may also find the just-in-time someone-like-you who has exactly the practical advice you need.

If you’re new to this concept, you might be interested in research documenting it: Peer-to-peer Healthcare. You might also want to learn more about the history of the e-patient movement and its current form as the Society for Participatory Medicine.

The tools and communities we build online have real and lasting consequences for our health and the health of our offline communities. Hurricane Sandy is just the latest example and Twitter is just the latest tool. Welcome to the world of e-patients.


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