Web 2.0 and social media: new tools for patient empowerment and narrative medicine.

James Borton, University of South Carolina Sumter, is convinced of one thing: medicine and storytelling go hand in hand. As a heart patient himself and English Professor, James is in a privileged position to understand the interdependence of literature and medicine. James recently contacted me to discuss our common interest in web 2.0 social media and the dramatic shift brought about by internet massive use that it is driving health-care professionals, medical students, patients and caregivers to blog about the illness narrative.

The relocation of medical expertise through web 2.0 social media

Quoting from Borton: “I do believe that the social media offers a therapeutic benefit for all patients who have experienced a a traumatic illness. Stories and disclosure heals”. One of the foremost researchers in this field, Dr James Pennebaker, professor and chair of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin, also confirms the efficacy of writing as way of healing. He summarizes his findings as follows: “the art of disclosure is a powerful therapeutic agent that may account for much of the healing process.

I recently attended the “Doctors 2.0” congress in Paris, the first European international event of this kind focused on social media, internet and health-care, which was attended by hundreds of health-care professionals and also patient advocates keen to explore the pros and cons of the internet media for healthcare. One of the main key messages of the congress was that in the world of e-health the concept of expertise is constantly being re-located and shifting from the official top-down appointed expert authority in the field to the unofficially bottom up community-recognized authority because of the experiential knowledge accumulated”. I am very keen myself in further researching into the potentialities of web 2.0 social media as new tools for patient empowerment and narrative medicine and welcome collaborations. Thanks to Dr Angela Woods at the Center for Medical Humanities at Durham for establishing this first link with James Borton. Please make sure you take a look at his blog All Heart Matters, a great introduction of heart surgery narratives and a link out to many other very good narrative medicine blogs.

Further reading

Borton J, Race, gender and politics enter into the ER All heart matters, July 13, 2011.

Camporesi S, e-Health: Empowering Health through the shifting role of expertise online Ecancermedicalscience, July 1, 2011.

Eysenbach G, Medicine 2.0: Social Networking, Collaboration, Participation, Apomediation, and Openness J Med Internet Res 2008;10(3):e22)



  1. Thank you very much Angela for this! I was actually unaware of the new BMA guidelines so very grateful to you for pointing that out. Looking forward to bounce off more ideas on this topic!

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