Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pharmacists' Use of Social Media (Web 2.0 Applications)..

Social Media photo SocialMedia.jpg
Social Networking
Since the advent of the internet in the early 1990, access and use of this electronic arena had largely been a one way affair, author to audience. The contents of the internet pages were static and primarily constructed using the HTML languages. This software language did not lend itself well to graphics neither was the Graphical User Interface (GUI) user friendly. Finally, it was mainly in the domain of the academia and other such institutions. However, the new millennium ushered in a brand new form of the internet. This flavor of the internet afforded itself to much iteration between the content author on the one side, and the general public on the other hand. These set of new tools are dubbed web 2.0. Web 2.0 represents a new platform of applications that allows some level of interaction between the web site and the user. More than before, the users are now able to edit and add content to the internet without any technical skills required.  These applications are more social in nature and of course caught the attention of primarily the young adults. Although developed primarily for entertainment and social communication within the general population,

 Applications such as Wikis, Blogs,, Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn are currently being employed by many a professional community to share ideas and disseminate information. Primarily worthy of note here is the way almost every company worth its salt has a Facebook page to interact with consumers (and potential clients) of their products and services. The Pharmacy profession is no exception. This paper will attempt, via a survey, to assess the way practicing retail & hospital pharmacists use these web 2.0 applications on a professional level. These newer applications differ from standard Web sites in that they involve the users in creating and distributing information, hence effectively changing how the Web is used for knowledge generation and dispersion



Web 2.0 applications sites present a unique opportunity to connect with consumers, hold virtual meetings, manage projects, offer value-added services for current clients, and market to potential clients. Many Pharmacists have joined these online communities and use them regularly, albeit, on a personal level. At the same time, some pharmacists are hesitant to use these sites because they don't understand them, are worried about privacy or other issues, or they just feel they don't need them. Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn attract millions of user on a daily basis. The users span various facets of the society and the phenomenon is only getting bigger.

Web 2.0 Applications

Web 2.0 applications differ from web 1.0 technologies in the sense that they provide a community of users administrative rights to continually add content to further enrich a  topic, edit content to correct, or  to reflect their understanding, etc.  It follows the saying “the more the merrier” Through the use of RSS, members of the community are notified once there is an update to the communal page. There are various types of web 2.0 applications. While most of them are delineated along functionality lines, others are boundless and straddle more than one classification categories. Example include Blogs, Wiki’s and Social Networking Sites (SNS), Examples of social networking sites include, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, PharmQD, LinkedIn, etc.



In practice, the term wiki (derived from the Hawaiian word for “quick”) is applied to a diverse set of interactive systems to which users can contribute. Using a web browser any user can add entirely new pages, or new content to existing pages, as well as change or entirely delete any existing information. Just like blogs, the use of a wiki does not require any HTML or web design skill since the web-based forms provide a simple editing interface. Wikis are hosted on a “wiki engine” and to date there are many such engines available. Examples include MediaWiki & Seedwiki. This application is fast finding favors with corporations as it affords different users (regardless of geography) to work collaboratively on a single project without the hassle of the chronology of emails.



Blog is a word coined from two words Web & Log. Blogs are simply journals that are available on the web. Blogs are typically updated on a daily basis and no real technical expertise is required to either create a blog (the author) or post comments regarding a subject matter (the subscribers). The act surrounding creating and updating a blog is often referred to as blogging. The latest posting are in front while the older ones are underneath and if you want to see what peoples comments have been so far you drill further down. You could comment on a blog, link to it as a reference in a separate write up or email the author your comments instead of posting them making them viewable by all subscribers. To be able to post comments you will have to be a subscriber to the site. The author holds the administrative privileges to modify the blog. Finally, a blog must be free, viewable by all subscribers as a webpage. Only the author should have administrative privileges. You could create a blog by visiting



Social Networking Site

Since the introduction of social network sites (SNS) namely Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, millions of users have adopted its use worldwide. Users are now incorporating the use of the various social networks into their day to day practices. These are web-based services that allow users to create a profile articulating a list of attributes about them accessible to other users via the web. These sites afford the users the ability to choose other users they want to have some (social) association with and finally afford them the ability to view and access the association(s) built by other users to whom they are connected. Hence the use of social network sites to describe this phenomenon. After joining a SNS, an individual is asked to fill out forms containing a series of questions. A profile is generated using the answers to these questions, which typically include attributes such as age, location, interests, and an "about me" section. Most sites also encourage users to upload profile photos, which are continually being updated. Some sites allow users to enhance their profiles by adding multimedia content or modifying their profile's look and feel. Others, such as Facebook, allow users to add modules ("Applications") that enhance their profile. Examples of these sites include Facebook (, Twitter (, LinkedIn (, etc.




 Originally founded to link students at Harvard University, the social networking site, Facebook, has evolved into the most visited social networking site in the world with over 800 million active users, 200 million users in the USA representing roughly 2/3 of population of the United States. Created in 2004, Facebook grew from being a quirky site for college students into a popular platform that is used to sell cars and movies, win over voters in presidential elections and organize protest movements as seen with the recent “Arab Spring” last year. According to comscore, social networking is the most popular online activity, reaching some 1.2 billion users worldwide (200 million more than email). Nearly one in 5 minutes online is spent on social networking, and 75% of that is on Facebook.


Twitter is an information network made up of 140-character messages called Tweets. It's a new and easy way to discover the latest news (“what’s happening”) related to subjects of interest to you. Twitter contains information you will find valuable. Messages from users you choose to follow will show up on your home page for you to read. It’s like being delivered a newspaper whose headlines you’ll always find interesting – you can discover news as it is happening, learn more about topics that are important to you, and get the inside scoop in real time. It was created in March 2006. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with over 300 million users as of 2011, generating over 300 million tweets and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day. It has been described as "the SMS of the Internet. The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. Users use the hashtag symbol “#” before relevant keywords (no spaces) in their Tweets to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Tweeter Search. By clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets in that category. Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end. Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics


Linked In:

LinkedIn is a business-related social networking site. Founded in December 2002 and launched in May 2003, its main focus is a networking forum between professionals. As of 3 November 2011 (2011 -11-03)[update], LinkedIn reports more than 135 million registered users in more than 200 countries and territories. The site is available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish, Japanese, Czech and Polish. Quantcast reports LinkedIn has 21.4 million monthly unique U.S. visitors and 47.6 million globally. In June 2011, LinkedIn had 33.9 million unique visitors, up 63 percent from a year earlier. One purpose of the site is to allow registered users to maintain a list of contact details of people with whom they have some level of relationship, called Connections. Users can invite anyone (whether a site user or not) to become a connection. However, if the invitee selects "I don't know" or "Spam", this counts against the inviter. If the inviter gets too many of such responses, the account may be restricted or closed.

This list of connections can then be used in a number of ways:

  • A contact network is built up consisting of their direct connections, the connections of each of their connections (termed second-degree connections) and also the connections of second-degree connections (termed third-degree connections). This can be used to gain an introduction to someone a person wishes to know through a mutual contact.
  • It can then be used to find jobs, people and business opportunities recommended by someone in one's contact network.
  • Employers can list jobs and search for potential candidates.
  • Job seekers can review the profile of hiring managers and discover which of their existing contacts can introduce them.
  • Users can post their own photos and view photos of others to aid in identification.
  • Users can now follow different companies and can get notification about the new joining and offers available.
  • Users can save (i.e. bookmark) jobs which they would like to apply for.

The "gated-access approach" (where contact with any professional requires either a pre-existing relationship, or the intervention of a contact of theirs is intended to build trust among the service's users.


Designed and distributed a survey to 119 practicing retail Pharmacist in the Miami Dade county area, & a few Pharmacists within the Cleveland Clinic, FL campus. The population for this study consisted of Staff Pharmacists and Pharmacy Managers (Pharmacist –in-charge) within the employment of CVS/pharmacy & and a handful of Hospital pharmacist to analyze the knowledge of, & use of the afore mentioned Web 2.0 applications. 75% of the Pharmacists responded. (n=89).




The study found age was a significant factor in determining the use of Web 2.0 applications by surveyed Pharmacists. The median age ranged being between 20 – 30 years old. One of the major concerns expressed, vividly by the non-members of social networks, the older folk, is privacy. However, almost all respondents have shopped online at least once in the last year where certain financial information was provided! The privacy concern stems from the fact that most of the posting can be stored for an extended period of time. Almost half of the surveyed Pharmacists claim they aren’t concerned about their boss or job reading their online profile. On the flip side, only 10% of respondents admitted to having created an online dating profile, and almost all respondents claimed they used a fictitious handle. The firsts question asked was “what are web 2.0 applications”?  Those that answered “Yes” were asked to list a few of the web 2.0 applications they knew. Surprisingly based on the age group (again) majority were only familiar with SNS (Social Network Sites). The second question “Do you have a Facebook page” showed that 98% of the respondents knew of Facebook as a social networking site only, and not aware of how it could be used for information sharing beyond the social realm,  but only 66 % actually have a page and only used sparingly for personal purposes, not professional. Not surprising was the fact that “wikis” and Blogs were not really known by Pharmacist, nor the possible use of these tools professionally above the 30 year old threshold. Similarly, active twitters were found in the 20 – 30 year old range. Most Pharmacists (98%) said they would consider using social networking sites more often now since most companies provide incentives to use them, by way of coupons, discounts, etc.




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