I’ve been reading a knowledge translation article in disguise on Yahoo about Slate writer Deborah Copaken Kogan, who woke up on Mother’s Day to find her four year-old son, Leo, feverish and sporting a rash. She took him in to the pediatrician that day, but the doctor said it could be one of a litany of illnesses, including strep throat. Kogan, trying to cheer Leo up, took his photo while they were in the doctor’s office, and posted it with the information about what was going on to her Facebook wall.
Three of her Facebook friends (two of whom are pediatricians), seeing Leo’s swollen face and reading about his symptoms, immediately urged her to take Leo to the hospital, fearing Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki is a rare and sometimes fatal illness that accelerates quickly and can affect the heart.
Kogan, who by her own admission is a pretty laid-back mom, was frightened enough by the messages to take Leo to the hospital, where he was, indeed, diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. He’s recovering, and Kogan credits the immediacy of the Facebook feedback for saving her child’s life.
This story is hardly the first of its kind – there have been other instances of medical professionals and nonprofessionals alike spotting things in Facebook photos and urging people to seek treatment for a variety of conditions, including cancer. But this new phenomena does have its opponents – the British Medical Association recommends that doctors not “friend” patients on Facebook. The Mayo Clinic, however, developed its own Facebook-type social networking site for their patients and providers to use.
Could our society of uber-sharing lead us to improved health care? Or could it result in a spate of nonprofessional misdiagnoses that actually puts lives at increased risk? Susannah Fox with the Pew Internet and American Life project focuses on the strange new world of technology and health care, and it makes for some really interesting reading.
What do you think? Is this an example of KT done well, or do you see a danger in taking the advice of people you may have never even met? Personally, I would welcome people’s input if I chose to share a medical condition online, but when it comes to seeking treatment, I’ll still rely on my own instincts and the advice of my doctor. How about you?