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Social Media Tips for Doctors

Recently, I was asked for personal advice on using Twitter. There are many articles out there that say we (physicians) don’t know how to properly use social media. Social media can be a very powerful tool in medicine. It can not only help us get medical information out there to our patients, but it can also help us connect with people, colleagues, and organizations to give us more visibility—whether for career advancement, media contacts, or just to get our voices heard. Social Media Basics: These are some of the tips I have come up with for doctors who want to take advantage of the many opportunities social media can offer: 1. Never communicate to patients through social media outlets. It is a set up for disaster and HIPAA violations. 2. Social media can be used for educating patients. Patients can follow you on these pages to get information about your practice and whatever medical information you wish to share. Twitter… 3.  Twitter is useful for growing your professional connections. It can be leveraged so you get known and also connect with other doctors, healthcare information technology people, media, etc. Patients can follow you on Twitter, but it generally is not a useful method of providing patient information because tweets are limited to 140 characters. 4. Choose your followers carefully. Block those who spam or troll you (“trolls” are people who negatively post with the deliberate intent of provoking a reaction). Many people will try to sell you things. Monitor your account because it is not uncommon for it to be hacked. 5. Grow your network. Have a group that...
Guidance for Social Media Use in Emergency Medicine

Guidance for Social Media Use in Emergency Medicine

share content with other users. In addition to social networking websites like Facebook, other technologies continue to penetrate the market, including video and picture sharing sites, forums, blogs, and other tools. The social media boom has reached the healthcare community, with physicians from all backgrounds gravitating towards using these platforms for various purposes. Recent reports suggest that social media use among emergency medicine (EM) physicians is especially strong, most likely because they tend to embrace the healthcare side of this type of networking in ways not typically seen with other specialists. Some institutions have used social media to develop EM blogs and websites that cover daily practice issues. Others have used it to enhance emergency preparedness efforts. “Social media has become an important method of communication and information sharing in EM,” explains Malford T. Pillow, MD, MEd. “It offers the potential to create an attractive internet presence and brand specific programs, including EM residency programs.” Considering Risks & Negative Consequences of Social Media Social media offers tremendous benefits for recruiting, communication, and education, but it also carries legal, ethical, personal, and professional risks. Negative consequences of social media use include violating professional and personal boundaries, among other potential problems. “Even simple actions like ‘friending’ someone or posting something on Facebook can be misinterpreted,” says Dr. Pillow. “There needs to be deliberate, transparent policies in place that are designed to optimize the benefits of social media while minimizing risks.” Important Recommendations to Guide Social Media Use Guidance statements for social media use have been released by leaders in various medical fields. These documents are helpful for developing an overall structure...
Capitalizing on Social Media to Enhance Diabetes Care

Capitalizing on Social Media to Enhance Diabetes Care

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have emerged as important online meeting places for social networking. Studies suggest that patients are increasingly looking to social media to gain information on medical conditions and treatments and to meet and interact with other people with similar health problems for support. “Social media offers patients an opportunity to learn about their illness and get assistance from others with similar experiences,” says Joyce Lee, MD, MPH. Some studies suggest that social networks can improve disease management and health outcomes for patients. Many disease-specific groups, including diabetes, have arisen on social media sites. “These resources have become important sources of information, support, and engagement for patients,” says Dr. Lee. Despite the emergence of these platforms, questions remain about the extent to which private firms promote their products in this unregulated environment. Furthermore, many physicians and patients are unaware of the extent to which information on social media is clinically accurate and whether patients receive advice to engage in potentially harmful activities. Exploring Social Media Use Recent studies have analyzed the content of health-seeking behavior and information sharing on popular social networking websites. “Many patients with diabetes utilize social networks and want to discuss health information online,” Dr. Lee says. Some analyses have shown that patients with diabetes, family members, and their friends use social platforms to share personal clinical information, request disease-specific guidance and feedback, and receive emotional support (Figure 1). Most social media sites that allow for wall posts provide information to patients with diabetes, but others contain advertisements, which are sometimes biased (Figure 2). The current literature suggests that there is little evidence...
Using Social Media in Oncology

Using Social Media in Oncology

The increasing popularity and use of social media in medicine offers great opportunities for healthcare professionals and their institutions to interact with patients and colleagues at a pace that has never before been possible. For oncologists, the variety of web-based and mobile technologies that make up social media allow for patient education and authoritative health messaging. Professional development and knowledge sharing, as well as increased direct patient interaction, are other attributes of these technologies. However, while social media offers great potential in healthcare, oncologists must be aware of the possible legal and privacy issues that come along with its use. The Value of Social Media According to Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, the immediate past-chair and member of the Integrated Media and Technology Committee from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), social media lends itself specifically to oncology for the very reason that the field appears to be evolving quickly. “Determining the social media outlets that present the most benefit to oncologists depends on each practitioner’s needs,” he says (Table 1). Twitter appears to hold significant value for oncologists, explains Dr. Dizon, who was also the lead author of an article published in the Journal of Oncology Practice that provides clinicians with guidance on using social media in oncology. “This is primarily because users have the ability to preselect individuals to follow to suit their own specific needs,” he says. “Users can also create lists to further streamline tweeted content. I have separate lists for people who tweet about their experiences with cancer, cancer centers, news disseminators, and colleagues.” Dr. Dizon adds that one of the best uses...
Making the Most of Social Media

Making the Most of Social Media

Surveys suggest that physicians use social media for personal use at nearly the same rate as the general population. However, when it comes to professional use—namely, the exchange of information and advice with other physicians and patients—physicians tend to be more apprehensive (Figure). With a boom in physician-review websites and an increasingly tech-savvy public, most physicians already have an online reputation that should not be ignored. Managing Online Persona “Many physicians are fearful of using social media because they believe what they say may be misconstrued,” says Enoch Choi, MD, a blogger and social media guru. “Others simply prefer to stay private. Unfortunately, there is plenty of information available online about most physicians, often including personal details, such as a home address or family members’ names.” A recent Pew Internet survey found that 44% of patients research their physicians online. Dr. Choi says physicians should keep this statistic in mind and actively manage their online personas so that the public finds the information they want found. “Flooding the internet with this information through social media engagement can bury personal details,” he says. “It can also limit inaccurate data and negative connotations that can be found among search engine results.” Examining the Social Media Options The various social media platforms (eg, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogging) offer a multitude of benefits, but physicians should focus on their own goals and personalities, according to Dr. Choi. “Facebook is useful for word-of-mouth-type sharing with patients because many of them already use it. Facebook is a convenient tool for many reasons, including the fact that many family members and friends are on...
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