Social media: how can doctors contribute?

"Social media: how doctors can contribute" is a brief but valuable opinion piece in The Lancet, one of the "big five" journals in the medical publishing world. I have suggested some practical examples before ( and my comments are in the text below.

Most social media guides for doctors emphasize the need to:

- maintain patient confidentiality
- provide accurate information
- treat colleagues with respect
- avoid anonymity online if writing in a professional capacity
- be aware of how content is shared
- review privacy settings and online presence
- declare conflicts of interest
- maintain separate personal and professional profiles

Here are some quotes from The Lancet article:

"Accepting Facebook friend requests from patients is, in general, not advised. But what of situations where doctors and patients are genuine friends? (then it's OK in many cases).

What, too, of the benefits of doctors providing medical information via blogs, Twitter, or Facebook? Current guidance focuses more on the risks than the benefits of doctors' use of social media."

Providing only negative examples of social media use by doctors is like teaching medical students only with "Morbidity and Mortality" conferences. Providing examples of positive outcomes and best practices is essential.

Patients use social networks to research their symptoms, their doctors, their treatments, and to set up support and information groups.

Doctors can use social media to drive awareness, to provide accurate information, and as a portal to communicate with other physicians.

"Much is said about the dangers of social media. Care about posting in a public space is, of course, needed. Doctors, though, should seize the opportunities provided by social networks to improve the health of their patients, and do their utmost to ensure that the highest quality of health information and access to treatment is there for all."

Finally, some common sense thinking about social media use by doctors has made it into a top 5 medical journal.

Cycle of Patient Education (click here to enlarge the image). An editable copy for your presentation is available at Google Drive:

Cycle of Online Information and Physician Education (click here to enlarge the image). An editable copy for your presentation is available at Google Drive:

The two cycles work together as two interlocking cogwheels (TIC). Here is how to facilitate the Rise of the ePhysican who works hand in hand with the ePatient:

Products of the Cycle of Patient Education: EQUALS

- Energy!
- Quality of life is improved
- Understanding of patient condition is improved
- "Affinity" - better physician-patient relationship leads to increased referrals to the practice, e.g. 2-5 new patients per week per physician, increased revenue
- Lower rate of ER visits, hospital admissions, phone calls
Savings for patient and health system


Social media: how doctors can contribute. The Lancet, Volume 379, Issue 9826, Page 1562, 28 April 2012.
Social media in medicine: How to be a Twitter rockstar and help your patients and your practice 

Related reading:

Howard Luks MD @hjluks: Many MDs and hospitalis are rushing into a So Me with a lack of proper offline preparation, and the lack of understanding

Comments from Twitter:

@mHIMSS: Nice breakdown! [GRAPHIC] How can #physicians contribute to #patient experience w/ #socialmedia? via @DrVes

Laika (Jacqueline) @laikas: Social media: how can doctors contribute? #socialmedia by @DrVes (with nice Patient Education Cycles) HT @DrShock

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