Introduction: The use of social media for health communication is on the rise. Patients utilize social media to find people who share similar health-related concerns and experiences. Peers also provide assistance that promotes a sense of belonging within the community. Use of social media in spinal cord injury has not been examined.
Methods: 100 recent images with the tag “#spinalcordinjury” on the social media platform instagram were identified and analyzed using thematic analysis. Advertisements and non-static images were excluded. Duplicate images were removed. Memes were included. Photographs were coded by two researchers to identify emerging themes with respect to content and photograph type through open coding with consensus between both researchers. Themes were then organized using selective coding. Final coding scheme was determined through consensus of each data point.
Results: Primary content included adaptive devices and modifications, family and friends, medical interventions, pets, physical therapy or physical fitness, travel and accomplishments, spinal cord injury advocacy and awareness, and other. Travel and accomplishments were the most prevalent, with over 30% (35 images) representing this category. Family and friends were the next most prevalent (19 images). The most common type of image was a “selfie” (59 images). Medical intervention subtypes included medical marijuana, TENS units, medical complications (urinary tract infection), and photographs of scars, radiographs, or of the account holder in an acute care setting.
Conclusions: Social media is playing an increasingly important role for health communication. It provides a means for patients to connect and share experiences, while providing insight to healthcare workers involved in their care.
Patient Care: Insights into the experiences of spinal cord injured patients can be useful for all healthcare workers involved in their care.
Learning Objectives: By the conclusion of this session, participants should be able to: 1. Understand the role of social media in sharing about spinal cord injury 2. Recognize commonly expressed themes in social media posts regarding spinal cord injury