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Health experience sharing could be future of social media

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Imagine you have been diagnosed with a condition; you’re always going to have questions and wonder who else is experiencing what you are going through.

With over 3.5 million monthly users, HealthUnlocked is the largest social network dedicated to talking about your own health. People are openly talking about their conditions as they would to their friends over a coffee – but over the web.

HealthUnlocked has over 600 health-specific online communities open to anyone, and is used by 40 million people each year, with patients coming from all across the world, but primarily in the UK and USA.

Matt Jameson Evans, former NHS orthopaedic surgeon, started HealthUnlocked with technology entrepreneur Jorge Armanet, after feeling frustrated about the lack of movement surrounding the role of technology in patient support.

“The majority of the patients that I was seeing had chronic back pain and I felt there was much more than could be done to support patients in coping rather than pushing them down a surgical route.”

Available to those with health conditions ranging from cancer to mental health conditions, and from weight loss communities to quit smoking groups, the platform aims to create patient-to-patient communities while also providing support led by patient organisations.

“My penny-drop moment was around the time Facebook and social media platforms were taking off in 2010. I questioned whether the intelligent chat room environment was something we could do with health.” says Matt.

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“Health information and support should not be for a privileged few, it should be open for everyone. I wondered how we could make this type of communication standard in healthcare.”

HealthUnlocked gives patient organisations and charities a platform to communicate with patients, which Matt says can be a lifeline for those dealing with a condition. The company started by building around the needs of both patient organisations and the patients themselves as a community programme which has become a social network empowered by the different communities within it.

“The information is driven by person-to-person activity so it’s a broad spectrum platform that can apply to many people.” adds Matt.

With 250 charity partners, each with their own online community, such as the British Lung Foundation and Lupus UK, HealthUnlocked is a mine of both peer-to-peer and professional information.

“Our communities are also embedded into the NHS Choices website – signposting support available on HealthUnlocked with the NHS condition information. Examples being statins and COPD.”

Matt explains that self-care, a term used to include all the actions taken by people to recognise, treat and manage their own health, is a big part of restructuring the NHS.

“We see ourselves in the future as a kind of delivery mechanism for things that are of value to patients, in the same way LinkedIn is used for everything professional.”

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  1. Pingback: 1 in 2 worried about how their health will impact Christmas - Healthizmo

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