Social Media in Diabetes Care

Apps for managing diabetes

Using social media as a key to accessing knowledge and a tool in helping to improve the lives of those with diabetes

I am having a chuckle to myself; the irony of what I am doing is not lost on me. I am writing an article on technology not on my PC, my laptop or even my tablet, but using a pen and paper. But I guess even a pen and paper were new forms of technology once too. So it is that we are always faced with change, and hopefully, improvements that make not only our lives easier, but those of our clients with diabetes.

So why today did I resort to pen and paper, despite knowing that I would then only have to type up the article later, and also being a fast touch typist? To be honest, I think it is just an old habit, and some old habits die hard, even when logic tells you that your old system and way of doing things is slower and less efficient, and it is this point that I will come back to later.

I was fortunate enough to attend the World Diabetes Congress recently in Melbourne. To my delight, there was a showcase of technology and social media presentations that continued to build on my already strong belief that embracing change and technology is crucial to our ability to stay relevant and efficient. One of the highlights for me was the discussion on social media for people with diabetes. I listened to speakers from around the globe talking about how they engage with others and find support for their diabetes through the online world.

So what constitutes social media? Social media is used by people to interact with each other online and allows for real time two-way dialogue between individuals on the internet. Popular social media sites include Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. A blog is also considered a form of social media.

Twitter was a hot conversation at the World Diabetes Conference. Twitter is a ‘micro-blog’ that limits people to saying what they want in 140 characters. Anybody can follow anybody and images or links to websites can also be used. Twitter is a popular tool in the online diabetes support arena. The Diabetes AustraliaOz Doc Twitter group (#OzDOC) has been ‘tweeting’ for a number of years now and continue to grow in their following. You can watch this Twitter chat as it runs from 8:30pm AEDT Tuesday evenings each week. There are over 970 followers of the Australian Diabetes Online Commentary by OzDoc. If you haven’t already downloaded twitter, I encourage you to do so and search for the many 1000’s of diabetes and health related Twitter groups.

Another form of social media is YouTube. YouTube is a video sharing site with over 3 billion hours of video available for free viewing. Similar to Google search, put in your topic or question such as “how do I use glucose monitor” and you will have a range of videos available  to choose from. I personally love this as an alternative form of education for my remote clients who cannot attend face-to-face consultants. In addition I find that Youtube clips regarding pathophysiology, blood glucose meter instructional videos and some of the clips done by Australian Diabetes Council, for example, are excellent resources.

Another form of social media used very effectively is blogging. A blog is an online publishing platform where information can be regularly posted, updated, and accessed by anyone on the Internet. It is a form of story-telling and for anyone that has heard me present, they know how much I love a story. Stories, if relevant and simple, are wonderful and entertaining ways of imparting information and none better than stories from people living their lives with diabetes. There are some fabulous blogs for those interested in type 1 diabetes. Check out Six Until Me at www.sixuntilme.com , Diabetes Daily at www.diabetesdaily.com, Diabetes Mine at www.diabetesmine.com and dLife diabetes blog at www.dlife.com/blog.

For people with type 2 diabetes, they can also find great blogs at Diabetes Daily at www.diabetesdaily.com or visit www.diabetesselfmanage.com  for a whole range of diabetes blogs from a different sources. This website allows you to read or even listen live from the website.

Blogs also exist for diabetes health care professionals and one Australian based blog post is Diabetes Tech Talk at www.diabetestechtalk.blogpost.com.au/ .Also for health care professionals are email newsletters with links to useful articles for and some good resources can be found at Diabetes Innovation Daily, Diabetes Pro Smart Brief by the American Diabetes Association and Health IT Strategist.

We know that the research done on social media and its benefits for people living with diabetes is positive, so why are we not using it more? I believe it is multifactorial but comes back to my point at the beginning of the article. We often resort to that which is habit, that which we are most comfortable with and know about. It takes less energy to do what we have always done, even if we know there are more effective ways of achieving the same outcome.

So I challenge you to the following:

  • Move yourself out of your comfort zone
  • Learn or find something new every single day
  • Commit to incorporating or sharing this information with your clients

If you wish to share what you have found useful for yourself or your clients, please email me at info@onlinediabetes.com.au

I finish with a quote from Picasso “I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it”.

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