Study: Social Media Sites Still Lag in Fact-Checked Material

Standards for how social media sites provide health information are far from universal.

More and more people are using social media to research healthcare issues and manage at least part of their healthcare profile. But the standards for how sites provide information are far from universal, something the general public may not be aware of.

That's the conclusion of research conducted by CVS Caremark and Brigham & Women's Hospital and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The joint survey looked at social media sites dealing with diabetes and found vast disparities. Specifically there were differences in how each site communicated information, how they positioned expert participation in the discussions and what sort of oversight existed to monitor the conversation.

"Online social networks may play an increasing role in health education as primary care physicians see increasing numbers of patients."

The problems begin at registration, where all but one site required only minimal - and unverified - information to create a profile. Only 33 percent allowed physicians to answer specific questions and just two-thirds of the sites reviewed featured administrator oversight of content submitted. More troubling is that 13 percent of sites had no noticeable fact-checking or moderation of content.

The study was done as part of CVS Caremark's overall push to increase medication adherence. Since social media and community information sites play an increasingly large role in what people are finding when they do their own research it was important to see what sort of fact-checking and other processes were in place. The results show that there is still a long way to go in terms of ensuring people find quality, verified and medically accurate information online.

You can read the press release on this study here.