Doctors in the Age of Social Media

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By: Anas Younes, MD
June 3, 2013

Twitter EyeRecently, a 26-year-old woman from Georgia came to my clinic to discuss her treatment options for her relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma. At the end of the visit, she said, “and by the way, I follow you on Twitter.” The clinic nurse and the medical oncology fellow were a bit surprised. Last week, another new patient came for a second opinion to discuss clinical trials for his refractory diffuse large cell lymphoma. His wife spoke with admiration of how they heard about me through social media, and how they became followers of my tweets (@DrAnasYounes) and medical posts on my facebook page (https://www.facebook. com/pages/Anas-Younes-MD). It is now well established that more than 60% of Americans get their health information online. Patients and their families read about their disease, learn about disease prognosis and standard treatment, search for physician, and research clinical trials. Patients and caregivers also exchange information on disease-related experiences, including treatment outcome, with others using a variety of social media outlets.

Finding Time, Overcoming Fear

In a recent survey, one in four doctors stated that they use social media on a daily basis to scan medical information, but less than 10% actively participate in posting information. Doctors, including many of my colleagues, frequently give excuses for not actively participating in social media. The most common excuse is, “I do not have the time.” This excuse reflects the lack of knowledge on how to use social media in medicine. Like it or not, doctors are spending more time online these days. We read scientific papers, respond to a constant stream of emails (some from patients), review electronic medical records, participate in video conferences, and order medicine—all online. So participating in social media, such as tweeting a link to an interesting new medical finding published in a scientific journal, takes only a few seconds. Same thing for posting a link from the New England Journal of Medicine or the Journal of Clinical Oncology on a Facebook page….read full article

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