Social media, mobile devices may improve speed, quality of care

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It turns out social media isn’t only a way to waste time. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), social media and the use of mobile devices have the combined potential to speed up access to cardiovascular care and ultimately save lives.

Cardiac arrest, acute MI and stroke affect millions of people in the United States each year, despite continued advancements in medical treatment for these conditions. The one problem that science can’t solve is time. According to the study’s authors, a timely recognition of symptoms and initiation of treatment are key to optimizing care and improving results.

The AHA has identified digital technology and social media as platforms to deliver potentially lifesaving information the moment it is needed.

One of the top barriers to care is education. While many people complete CPR and AED training, they shy away from using those skills in real emergency situations. Mobile devices have the potential to provide just-in-time learning that delivers audio or video instructions on how to properly execute these techniques. For example, by placing a mobile device between the hands during chest compressions, the app provides feedback on whether the technique is being performed properly.

Social media can also be used for the dissemination of health information. The authors site a prior study of health-related groups on Facebook that found cardiovascular-related groups have the highest number of users. These channels can provide needed information to an engaged audience.  

In terms of technology, the biometric sensors located on many handheld and wearable devices have the ability to tract heart rate andrespiration rate, detect falls and log activity and body posture. By monitoring these vital signs, the device can alert owners of potential warning signs of cardiac arrest and encourage them to seek treatment.

Despite such applications, the AHA warns that digital strategies and technologies require further testing before they can be proven to improve emergency cardiovascular and cerebrovascular care.

For example, the AHA found many inconsistencies in YouTube videos demonstrating how to properly perform CPR. Until regulatory standards are put in place to monitor such content, it cannot be promoted as a reliable source of information.