Farrah Hunt - Thompson

Organ Donations through Social Media

by User Not Found | Jun 15, 2010
As I deliberated on a topic for this week’s blog, I ended up changing my course. I had originally planned to discuss the recent social media privacy issues that have been in the main stream media, and then ran across the article, Social Media Boosts Organ Donors. We all have seen several examples of organizational fund-raising through social media, whether it is Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, etc. Most of us, by now, have also heard of very controversial stories regarding surgeries being tweeted over Twitter. So before I began reading the article, I was not surprised by the idea of social media boosting organ donation. Why not? Many organizations have taken the social media route when trying to fund-raise for causes, services and even, specifically, organ donation.  However, I was surprised to read that social media was being used as a tool for someone seeking personal organ donations. Recently, the “Social Media Boosts Organ Donors” article was published in the The Detroit News regarding a thirty year old woman, Melissa Foster, who has taken to Facebook seeking a match for a kidney donation. Foster had been using Facebook, until recently, as most of us use it, to keep up with friends. Foster is already the recipient of one donated kidney, but unfortunately her body has begun rejecting the organ. By going through traditional means, Foster could potentially wait another 9-12 years before receiving another kidney. Her donation page, “Mel needs a kidney”, had been active about a week before the article was run, and at that point Foster had already had over 100 responses from potential candidates willing to be tested for compatibility.  A day after the article was posted (when I came across it) the page had over 800 members. Before social media, patients had already begun feeling enlightened due to the internet. It was now possible for individuals to research, and educate themselves on conditions and potential diagnosis to symptoms. Today, it’s fascinating to me, with the insurgence of social media, that patients feel empowered to begin their own social media campaigns for medical treatment. Although Foster is seeking individuals interested in being tested for possible match to receive their kidney, it also presents a new world of opportunity for organizations to educate patients on services offered by the organization. It appears that a new avenue is opening for organizations to find opportunities within certain niches that may not have existed even a year ago. I would, however, add to walk on the cautious side before jumping into such a very sensitive conversation. Areas such as this, which could potentially lead to a new patient, should not be the primary focus. I would suggest getting an expert within the field, in this case kidney transplants, at your organization involved in the conversation. As the purpose of social media, one should be participating in the conversation to provide education, help and to begin a two way communication street. It should not be just to “make the sale”. I’m curious to know if any organizations have examples of finding successful candidates for surgery, donation, etc. through personal user social media campaigns, such as Melissa Foster’s.  If Melissa’s voyage is only the beginning of a new wave, do you see personal user campaigns for healthcare issues changing the way your organization operates within social media?
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