Saturday, March 31, 2012

Social Media and Disseminating Medical Information

I attended a one-day conference on Social Media yesterday.  It was really fascinating to see how many tools are out there to help measure, improve and monitor a social networking presence (for both persons and for companies).  I have previously mentioned that return on investment is not critical to my presence in social media.  However, this conference opened my eyes to the importance of this, and I now believe it should be absolutely taken into account, especially if one goal is to disseminate information, enhance communication and learn from others.
Some ask why I, as a medical educator physician, have become involved in Social Media.  My reasons have not changed.  I do it because physicians need a presence for social networking, since the majority of patients who use the internet are already looking for medical information online.  Physicians have an obligation to society to disseminate clear, succinct and truthful health care messages to combat online misinformation that is unfortunately too common; what better way than to use social networking to accomplish this?  Let’s meet our patients where they are, which is on social media.  Add to all of this the importance of role modeling the intersection of social media and medicine with learners, all the while maintaining a professional demeanor.
I gave a presentation on social media in medicine and medical education two days prior to this conference, as a Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds.  This was my first formal scholarly presentation on this topic.  It was simply a blast to be able to present this information to my colleagues.  The conference was very well attended.  Some were skeptical, and a few probably remain skeptical.  Some came up to me later and in emails and asked “How can I get started in social media, for the betterment of my patient care?”  This was the biggest compliment of all (and bigger than more Twitter followers, in my opinion).  It demonstrates that people listen and are willing to learn and try new things, and want to put patient care first and foremost.
Here are a few examples of how social media and mobile technology have the potential to improve patient care:
What are your thoughts on using social media to help improve patient care?

[For those interested in the tweets during the Grand Rounds conference, please see the hashtag #IUPedsGrRounds, with the transcript available here.]

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Social Media for Physicians

Social media for physicians: what's all the buzz about?
I've read some great posts on social media in medicine recently.  Here are a few of my own thoughts (in no particular order), after reflecting on some great writing:
1.  Patients--lots of them--are looking online for health information. If doctors are not finding them there, then those patients may be getting information from others who may not have the requisite knowledge, thus increasing the chances of dissemination of mis-information.

2. Yes, doctors understand that they need to be careful and keep privacy in mind. HIPAA has been around for several years now.  Docs get it.  But if they let that hesitancy get in the way, they miss the opportunity to educate.  That is a lost opportunity.

3. The cost of advertising on social media is measured in time.  Yes, it is a doctor's most precious commodity, but it is not like an investment in a many-million-dollar new scanner.  The benefits are definitely worth it. And there is a Return on Investment (not only financial, but also in opportunities for meeting new people and forging new relationships). 

4. Good communication skills should never be forgotten. Yes, doctors still need to know how to communicate with patients one-on-one. But again, patients are already in the social media environment.  Why not meet them there?  See #1.

5. Doctors need to embrace the technology, not just complain about the "new generation" and their obsession with technology (which may not necessarily be true).  The new tools are here to stay.  Either get on the bus or risk being left in the dust.  It's similar to saying "I'm not going to try to improve my practice because I like the old way." That would not fly.  So why are doctors so hesitant to try and taste the water from the social media fountain?

6. We need to role model the balance of this new communication method with "traditional communication" for the trainees.  But did the old way really work?  Unfortunately, the medical profession is less trusted than it has ever been.  Maybe the new generation has ideas for how to remedy this, and some of those ideas will come from social media.  Let's listen and learn!

7. Let's study the impact of social media like we study the impact of the newest drug. Certainly, we know that some drugs work better for some conditions than other drugs.  But what about the impact of a patient education app on real patient outcomes?  Or the impact on physician knowledge and attitudes?  How about a randomized trial of a medical education app to teach murmurs (half the trainees) compared with a simulation mannequin that focuses on teaching murmurs (the other half of the trainees)?

8. It's fun!  I have learned so much from meeting people I never would have met had I not joined Twitter.   Plus, social media is not like email that has to be answered.  If I don't have time today, well, then that is ok.  Some days I may "use" social media a lot, and other days not at all.

9. The opportunity to have conversations with others with similar interests is definitely one worth exploring.  And there are others out there with similar interests, both down the hall, and across the globe.  It is easy to walk 20 feet and ask the colleague down the hall, but what an opportunity to learn from the colleague several thousand miles away!

10. The opportunities to present a clear public health message are undeniable.  Isn't that a responsibility which the medical field should take on and own?