Using Facebook to raise awareness about the symptoms of Inflammatory Back Pain (IBP) and the need to seek medical help early may reduce the delay in diagnosis and treatment, according to a recent study.
The findings suggest that Facebook advertising may be a more effective way of identifying IBP patients earlier than other approaches, including newspaper adverts.
In the management of IBP, early diagnosis is key to reduce the risk of severe functional disability and early retirement. Correct diagnosis depends largely on the pattern of clinical symptoms and signs in addition to magnetic resonance imaging.
Early diagnosis has become all the more important because biological therapies such as TNF inhibitors are available that effectively suppress disease activity and improve functional ability in patients that have been refractory to conventional drug therapy.
“Patients with inflammatory back pain (IBP) can wait years for a correct diagnosis. Early treatment is critical in achieving better outcomes for these patients. We applied a novel recruitment method using Facebook over five months to identify adults in the community with symptoms suggestive of IBP, comparing the outcome with other forms of recruitment, principally newspaper advertising,” said Dr Arumugam Moorthy of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS trust, UK.
“Facebook advertising recruited a younger group of respondents and a higher proportion of them fulfilled the criteria for a diagnosis of IBP compared to the group of patients recruited by other methods,” Dr Moorthy explained.
“Although most of the chronic back pain patients we recruited through Facebook had consulted their GP, only 13 percent had actually been referred to a rheumatologist, confirming the need for additional GP education,” Dr Moorthy concluded.
The results have been presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2016).