14 Ways Pinterest Can Improve Health and Medicine

Posted by: in Healthcare Insights, Social Media Insights & Trends on February 16, 2012

Pinterest is the newest, hottest social property on the web, with online news sites trying to outdo themselves each other with the praise they are heaping on the image-sharing site. For the uninitiated, Pinterest makes it easy to “pin” an interesting image from anywhere on the web (along with a link to the page the image is on) to a “board” that can be viewed by users. (For more info, check out this Pinterest basics guide. For those interested in Pinterest’s impact on brands, please see colleague Lauren Wartham’s Pinterest for Business Slideshare deck.)

But the applications for health care are not as clear, and Pinterest — while it may prove an ideal medium for exploring recipes, knitting projects and skinny jeans — may not have the same level of impact when it comes to health and medicine. There are two reasons for this. The first is that health care remains one of the few areas of online exploration where privacy is still held dear; no one is rushing to pin the list of medications they use. The second is that the magic of Pinterest is in grouping images onto boards. As a user, it’s the sorting that is the fun part. Yet health does not lend itself to sorting. Patients and doctors tend to focus on one disease, or one treatment path, at a time.

But that doesn’t mean that wellness has no place on Pinterest. Here are 14 ways that Pinterest can be used to make us all healthier:

  1. Diet: Food photos make up a huge chunk of Pinterest content, making it a common-sense place to look for healthy items to slot into a plan for healthy eating.
  2. Inspiration: Whether battling disease or looking for a reason to get out of bed and into running shoes, Pinterest is full of images, sayings and posters that can provide that pick-me-up.
  3. Support: No matter the disease, there are inspirational people living their lives to the fullest. I’ve love to see a constellation of board dedicated to curating pictures of people making the most of their circumstances. For a start, check out Alicia Staley’s board of participants in the #BCSM group on Twitter.
  4. Breastfeeding: There are already boards full of breastfeeding resources. There is a huge amount of potential for building out a library of that kind of visual education.
  5. Self-Care: The breastfeeding model could easily be carried over to other areas where a number of self-care strategies are required, from post-op wound care to tips and tricks for self-injection of medication
  6. Disease Awareness: Pioneering digital doc Howard Luks has already build a board for “sports injuries,” and it’s easy to see a next step: a specific board for specific ailments, showing the underlying physiology, diagnostic tools and treatment options.
  7. Recommended Products: TV commercials may claim that “4 of 5 dentists” prefer brand X, the reality is that I don’t actually know what toothbrush, toothpaste, floss or mouthguard my dentist actually recommends. A Pinterest board could solves that problem simply.
  8. Stretches: Twice in the last year, I’ve been prescribed rigorous stretching routines. Those routines came from photocopies, but they would have been far better for me to have been directed to a Pinterest page describing “hip flexor stretches” rather than keeping track of pieces of paper.
  9. Gym Routines: The same goes for activities at the gym. There is an enormous amount of great content on the web on everything from the proper technique for bicept curls to advanced ways of using a Bosu ball. Pinterest is the ideal curation method for those highly visual elements.
  10. Running Routes: Several websites allow users to map their runs, but it’s hard to share that great 5-mile trail run you found last weekend. Pinterest gives an easy way to broadcast that kind of information to fellow runners or hikers or cyclists.
  11. Common Tests/Results: I work in medical communications, and I couldn’t tell you what every one of the tests I received on my last physical was for. An enterprising doc could certainly make a board that visualizes each and every test for an average visit. Ditto for pediatricians, who may want to illustrate what each vaccination means. Or those doing Welcome to Medicare physicals.
  12. Study Data: Right now, medical data is almost always presented as text — especially with search — despite the wealth of charts, images and graphs that undergird the data. Telling the story of a disease or treatment with a graph-filled board might make hard treatment decisions easier to understand for patients.
  13. Hospital Survival Kits: “What should I bring to the hospital?” is an evergreen question. Mothers about to give birth usually pack a go-bag (nice PJs, massage supplies, etc.), and seeing that illustrated would be a huge help. So would similar boards, broken out by age, for children. Or seniors. Or visitors.
  14. Medical Teams: I’m of the age where I have a hard time keeping track of my medical team. I have an internist for regular checkups, an orthopedist and a physical therapist for my annual sports injury and a dermatologist in charge of checking my suspicious moles. And then there is the dentist and the eye doc. Throwing website photos of those guys in a board would make my life a lot easier. But am I willing to make that public?

The wonderful thing about any emerging social network is that its evolution is dictated in part by its users. When it comes to health, where will we take Pinterest next? Please share here or a drop a comment on Pinterest itself.

By: Brian Reid

Brian Reid is a director at WCG in the product group, where he specializes in media. He is a former journalist who believes content really is king.

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9 Responses

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  1. Love the idea of being “directed to a Pinterest page describing “hip flexor stretches” rather than keeping track of pieces of paper.”

  2. Fran Melmed said

    This is a great list. The best use of Pinterest I’ve seen so far has also been from your fair town, and it was for SXSW: http://sxsurvival.com/.

    The highly visual format of Pinterest combined with its allowance for comments makes it a richer environment for guidance and support.

    I like it.

  3. Very cool! Thanks for sharing!

  4. This is very informative information!

  5. Andrew said

    Yup this rocks.

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