Social Media: What Consumers Need to Know About Online Health Information

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

It’s an exciting time in health care today. The health care landscape is rapidly changing and digital technology has transformed the way we communicate, interact and search for health information.

Social Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, to name a few, are powerful and phenomenal platforms to educate the public, raise awareness of health issues and collaborate and engage in conversations. Social media platforms gives a voice to consumers.

Pew Research Center reports 87% of U.S. adults use the Internet and 72% of Internet users say they looked online for health information.

What do consumers need to know about health information?

For starters, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

It’s important to be an empowered consumer. Know the warning signs. For example, if a product promises a quick fix, or if it seems exaggerated or unrealistic, be cautious.

Gary Schwitzer, publisher at offers these seven words that shouldn’t be used in medical news.

  1. Cure
  2. Miracle
  3. Breakthrough
  4. Promising
  5. Dramatic
  6. Hope
  7. Victim

If you encounter these words, be cautious and question the information.


Be empowered. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your research—gather information from different sources. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider before making any changes to your lifestyle or medical regimen. 

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