Risks and Benefits for Physicians Who Use Social Media/Web 2.0

From the newsletter of the AMA, AmMed News: "Social media behavior could threaten your physician reputation and job prospects. Less is more." How do you expect doctors to use social media more when they are "bombarded" with headlines like this. There is little on the positive aspects of social media in this particular article although the AmMed News has published some better, more nuanced and balanced, reports on social media use in the past.

Practical benefits of social media for a physician practice

In addition to the obvious benefits for a physician practice to be open and social, there are some practical advantages of using social media. KevinMD shares the example of a patient who searches for "primary care doctor Nashua" (where he works) and Kevin is in the top search results due to his heavy use of social media - blog, Twitter, RSS, email subscriptions and Facebook. He also employs some "white hat" search engine optimization to ensure that his relevant pages are well-ranked by the search engines.

Benefits of social media in day-to-day clinical work

I use my own blogs as an useful archive of hand-picked and reviewed articles that is classified with appropriate labels (e.g. asthma, food allergy, etc.) and is fully searchable from any Internet-connected device: desktop PC, laptop, netbook, iPhone and even Kindle. All doctors may benefit if they use a similar resource created by them.

Let me give you a few real-life examples of social media use in clinical work:

- A patient needed instructions on dust mite control - I pulled my own mind map on the screen and discuss it with them http://bit.ly/cSxpQW

- A patient wanted to know about the new angioedema therapies - I pulled a different mind map and we discussed the different options http://bit.ly/caWmS7

- A colleague was unsure about "wine allergy" and its connection to wasp and bee venom - I searched my own blog on the cell phone: http://bit.ly/cykR2g and found a relevant article that I had read months ago which answered his clinical question http://bit.ly/bCdoeg

When working on the blog, I am often more like a "curator" of medical content (collecting the best articles and links) rather than a "producer" (creator of de novo content). Sometimes a doctor with a smartphone is more helpful than "a crowd" ("wisdom of crowds" or not) trying to recall an obscure fact, disease or complication from distant memory.

Benefits of social media for academic collaboration

The benefit of social media in academia is well-proven at this point if one is inclined to use such tools. For example, I have co-written more than 100 abstracts and 25 articles with the help of the online office suite Google Docs.

However, I don't think that a physician not using social media is at risk of becoming irrelevant (something mentioned recently). This is a limiting view.

I look forward to your feedback Please let me know what your think in the comment form embedded below this post.

Image source: OpenClipArt.org, public domain.

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