One of the top reasons doctors don't use social media: it takes too much time

A few thoughts from my Twitter account:

One of the top reasons (not the only reason) why doctors don't use social media is that it takes "too much time". For example, no practicing physician has the time to "argue for hours" over the content of single 140-character tweet.

To dispel a few misconceptions:

- Medical news tweets are not research articles - they are 140-character messages - therefore always go to the original source/links, etc.

- Tweets and links do not represent endorsement, approval or support.
Tips for webmasters: when talking about endorsements, link to them. Please see top right sidebar of for an example.

- Medical blogs are not a source of "actionable" medical information. The same principle applies to Wikipedia. You must be treated by an expert - not a "crowd" - as in the "wisdom of crowds" concept used by Wikipedia.

Until recently, I did not think that anybody would need a course how to use Twitter but it looks like social media should probably be on medical school curricula. Looking at some recent social media "disasters", future doctors need to know how handle criticism in public on Twitter, blogs, etc. Social media is a different medium by definition and it may require different skills. Common sense and application of values of the profession are paramount but social media is a new area and many otherwise reasonable people mishandle it without even noticing - in "real time."

Educators should focus on several aspects of social media (SM), not just the receiving end - RSS, podcasts, etc. SM in its current form is very different from face to face communication, phone call or even email. SM education should cover both professionalism and information use.

Medical librarians are the ones that should take the lead and teach medical students about social media because they are best "equipped" to do it. The whole job description of a medical librarian has changed - it should be a "medical information specialist"...

Where to start?

For doctors: How to be a Twitter star in two easy steps

Related reading

The only way to preserve the wisdom of the crowd is to protect the independence of the individual. WSJ, 2011.
Image source:, public domain.

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  1. I agree that one of the biggest hurdles in docs adopting social media is time. But I would add it has to do with value. If physician can find value in social media, then they would make time for it. Thus the reason most haven't adopted Twitter and others is because there really isn't any value for them.

    From my perspective, I think most doctors that are engaged in social media are generally ones that have something else besides their medical practice. For example, a book, a blog (with advertising) or active speaking engagements. In other words, there is some marketing angle to it. Of course, not all docs approach social media this way, but many do. The rest are trying to figure out what all this social media hoo-rah-rah is all about.

    Regarding adding Twitter to the medical school curricula, I think I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

    Before medical schools institute classes on social media, I think residents should be required to take several business administrative classes. Recent grads are illprepared to deal with the intricacy of the “business” side of health care. And with roughly 70% of doctors belonging to small, privately own medical practices, it is imperative they obtain basic knowledge in coding, billing, account receivables, cash flow, practice management and many, many more business related concepts. For many, understanding these concepts will be their livelihood.


  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Brandon.

    You do have a point that a business training is probably more needed as part of the curriculum.

    I was thinking in terms of some basic social media training being offered as part of the communication skills course that is already included in some medical school curricula.

  3. As social media keeps becoming more popular doctors are going to have to hop on the bandwagon. If they do not have the time there are other options available to them, like hiring someone to handle their internet marketing.

    There does need to be some sort of marketing taught in medical school. Once doctors finish school and start their practice they need to know how to attract business.