Facebook Status: Need Kidney
But first, researchers need to identify the factors and strategies on these networks that facilitate successful transplants, Alex Chang, MD, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., and colleagues reported at the National Kidney Foundation meeting.
Social media is "a natural vehicle to increase kidney transplant, but there hasn't been a lot of research on it," Chang told MedPage Today .
Further study could elucidate improved strategies for connecting donors and recipients and could help address any ethical considerations, he said.
So in October 2011, he and colleagues searched Facebook pages for terms that were related to kidney donation and ended up including a total of 91 profiles in their final analysis.
They found that patients who posted their need of a kidney transplant online ranged in age from 2 to 69.
Patients themselves created 37% of the pages, while 31% were created by their children, and 32% by other family members.
Disclosure of patient information was variable, ranging from a simple request for a kidney donation to more in-depth pages that provided details on medical history, photographs, and contact information.
Although Chang and colleagues weren't able to determine the exact contribution of Facebook in terms of soliciting donors, they found that 12% of pages ultimately reported a successful transplant, while 30% reported having potential donors being tested for a match.
"It's hard to figure out who received a kidney and who was successful at using Facebook and how it was mediating their success," Chang told MedPage Today .
"But it looked like some people were very successful in spreading the message, by getting friends to post on their walls, finding random people in their networks to step up and be tested and eventually receive a transplant."
The researchers also tried to assess patient characteristics for those that had more successful social media campaigns.