Send to

Choose Destination
J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2011 May 1;18(3):292-7. doi: 10.1136/jamia.2010.009712. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Social but safe? Quality and safety of diabetes-related online social networks.

Author information

Children's Hospital Informatics Program at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



To foster informed decision-making about health social networking (SN) by patients and clinicians, the authors evaluated the quality/safety of SN sites' policies and practices.


Multisite structured observation of diabetes-focused SN sites. Measurements 28 indicators of quality and safety covering: (1) alignment of content with diabetes science and clinical practice recommendations; (2) safety practices for auditing content, supporting transparency and moderation; (3) accessibility of privacy policies and the communication and control of privacy risks; and (4) centralized sharing of member data and member control over sharing.


Quality was variable across n=10 sites: 50% were aligned with diabetes science/clinical practice recommendations with gaps in medical disclaimer use (30% have) and specification of relevant glycosylated hemoglobin levels (0% have). Safety was mixed with gaps in external review approaches (20% used audits and association links) and internal review approaches (70% use moderation). Internal safety review offers limited protection: misinformation about a diabetes 'cure' was found on four moderated sites. Of nine sites with advertising, transparency was missing on five; ads for unfounded 'cures' were present on three. Technological safety was poor with almost no use of procedures for secure data storage and transmission; only three sites support member controls over personal information. Privacy policies' poor readability impedes risk communication. Only three sites (30%) demonstrated better practice. Limitations English-language diabetes sites only.


The quality/safety of diabetes SN is variable. Observed better practice suggests improvement is feasible. Mechanisms for improvement are recommended that engage key stakeholders to balance autonomy, community ownership, conditions for innovation, and consumer protection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center