A conversation with a Web 2.0 skeptic

This is a conversation between Anne Marie Cunningham (@amcunningham), a GP and Clinical Lecturer, based in the UK and I (@DrVes). It took place on Twitter yesterday and is summarized below. The tweets were not edited for grammar or spelling.

@amcunningham: Web 2.0 for Emergency Physicians http://bit.ly/uFnA0 .... would love examples of how web2.0 has helped docs with work.

I have written several abstracts with academic physicians I met via my blog or their blog.

@amcunningham: OK... yes, I know about academic relevance. i find the same. But I want to know about clinical use. Ran out of space in tweet:) but have you ever found web 2.0 content useful in your clinical work? you still do clinical work?

@DrVes: This is trickier. It depends whether you trust the resource or not. Sometimes, I provide links of selected resources on my sites to my patients, for example, videos how to use nasal saline rinse. Web 2.0 has a lot of uses for physician/patient communication, it's a pity so (relatively) few physicians benefit from it.

@amcunningham: right!!! but if I am to start teaching students about this I need some real life examples of how useful. And not around yet.

@DrVes: Web 2.0: A blog website is one of the best ways to establish your online identity and educational credibility as a physician. I use my own websites to refer to links I collected, tips, experience pearls, etc. Web 2.0 allows you to create your own section of the web that you trust, e.g. your own blog, best medical links, etc.

@amcunningham: uhm maybe it is different for a generalist but I need to be good for searching for info all the time. saving stuff not so relevant.

@DrVes: Saving info allows you to search it... :) I have experience using Web 2.0 both as "generalist" and specialist - it helps either way... I also follow a few people in my specialty that often select what's relevant from med news and provide a critical view. This presentation aims at answering the question "Why a physician should use Web 2.0?" http://bit.ly/jsQSL (101 slides)

@amcunningham: Uhmmm, you don't follow me [on Twitter] so missed me tweeting this paper by Richard Smith from 1996- still VERY pertinent http://bit.ly/tHQ8L

@DrVes: A good 1996 BMJ review http://bit.ly/tHQ8L but it doesn't even mention UpToDate! KevinMD can't practice without it... :) Did you know that UpToDate was launched in 1992? http://bit.ly/Yf2zB - It wasn't even quoted in this 1996 BMJ review: http://bit.ly/tHQ8L

@amcunningham: was uptodate around in 1996???

@DrVes: You sound like you would like to explore the skeptic point of view of Web 2.0 in medicine - a blog post would be a good start.

@amcunningham: oh, I have blogged! http://bit.ly/el80o http://bit.ly/18xrUm and I am sure I will blog again! yes, I am a skeptic.

@DrVes: I knew from your first Twitter reply that you were a skeptic about Web 2.0 use in medicine. And that's perfectly fine. Reply to @Berci too... :)

@amcunningham: without real-life examples, of myself and others, to be anything other than sceptical in this point in time would be foolish. There is a place of web2.0... discussing how guidelines etc are implemented in practice... but I see next to none of this yet. i have tried to use forums like doc2doc to start these conversations without success. i have tried crowdsourcing for clinical info on twitter without success. i believe it could work and maybe i should blog about that! good point:)

Generally, I am a proponent of Web 2.0 use in medicine but I fully appreciate the validity of the arguments of the skeptics who doubt its usefulness. Also, I may have been the first who used the term "Web 2.0 in Medicine" in articles and presentations back in October 2005.

This is one of my presentations on Web 2.0 in Medicine, updated in 04/2009:

The same conversation on Twitoaster.
Image source: OpenClipArt, public domain.


  1. Thank you! I am giving a presentation at ASME (Association for the Study of Medical Education) about how I think social media and networks can support scholarship in medical education. So I am not a sceptic about the use of social media in general.

    Hopefully through conversations we can move things forward.

    Anne Marie

  2. Great conversation, and use of web 2.0 technology to record and re-distribute the material to a wider audience.
    As you will read over the next series of blogs @precordialthump and I have been exploring the mismatch between technology and the enthusiastic engagement of the medical fraternity as a whole. It is an unfortunate state of affairs to find the slow uptake and warm embrace from my colleagues that I had hoped would have ushered in the dawn of the new electronic era of information sharing...but with head still bruised and brick wall still dented we shall battle on to realise the blogging ecosystem dream

  3. Anne Marie,

    The very fact that you have a blog and Twitter account and used them in this conversation makes you a web 2.0 enthusiast in the medical world... :) The title reflects that you explored a skeptic point of view for the purpose of the discussion - this is actually very helpful and broadens one's point of view. Thank you.


    Most people learn and adopt new technology at their own pace. I greatly appreciate your work to promote the use of Web 2.0 for medical education.

  4. Great to see this discussion.

    Web 2.0 is certainly under-performing in terms of clinical utility given its promise. I think a major reason for this has been its poor uptake among practicing clinicians (at least in my part of the world). Clinicians need to get involved and help guide how these tools evolve so that they become more useful.

    For those interested, this was my response to Anne Marie's comment asking for examples of clinical uses of Web 2.0 on my 'Web 2.0 for Emergency Physicians' blog post (http://sandnsurf.medbrains.net/2009/07/web-20-for-emergency-physicians/):

    Hi Anne Marie,

    As I alluded to in the post ‘How and Why Junior Docs use Web 2.0′ (http://sandnsurf.medbrains.net/2009/07/how-and-why-junior-docs-use-web-20/) Web 2.0 is generally used for background knowledge needs rather than foreground needs (real-time clinical decision making).

    If you do at the bedside literature searches using alternative search engines such as Mednar or GoPubMed you are using Web 2.0 for foreground knowledge.

    I have also responded to other doctors’ concerns about clinical management issues on professional networking sites such as Multimedix.

    I consider the use of feed aggregators as Web 2.0 because they separate information from the form they are created in and allow sharing. Together with podcasts, RSS feed aggregators play an important role in keeping me up-to-date with emerging evidence, and cater to knowledge needs on the background-foreground boundary.

    I’ve also been known to look things up on this blog (the brainstem rule of 4 for instance, and the Tony Brown lecture series - and my stingray tox conundrum came in very handy once too!).

    If more of my colleagues were using twitter asking clinical questions may be an option (at the moment I’m restricted to asking Mike aka sandnsurf - often Twitter is the best way to get hold of him anyway…).


  5. Here is another of my web 2.0 pet projects


    Would love to have lots of authors and think about what would really help us with our work.


  6. Wonderful discussion and amazing that it took place on twitter and included so many useful links to valuable information. As an added benefit I found some excellent new tweeple to follow. Thanks!