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Published On May 3, 2014

TECHNOLOGY

Only (Dis)connect

Three physician bloggers consider where social media and medicine meet.

In surveying social media and medicine, some physician bloggers see immense opportunities to interact with one another and with patients, while others wonder if the days of the physician blog are numbered.

Blurred Boundaries

Adapted from a March 27, 2014 post on 33 Charts, the blog of Bryan Vartabedian, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital.

It used to be clear where we were. When we were in a patient room we carried ourselves one way. In church or temple, we behaved a different way. With friends and family, the limitations and boundaries were different. Public communities change that. Doctors and patients swim in the same pool. Context is increasingly ill defined, so it’s easy to find yourself unintentionally breaking the rules.

Now take a social platform with fuzzy boundaries, add in the detachment afforded by a remote avatar engaging at the speed of now, and you’ve got a recipe for problems. A young doctor’s racy communiqué fashioned for a love interest finds its way in front of a patient. A male OB/GYN resident strikes a pose next to a naked statue on the Vegas strip and it becomes an unintended part of his application for a fertility fellowship.

Where Have All the Blogs Gone?

Adapted from a Jan. 7, 2014 post on Dr. Wes, the blog of Westby G. Fisher, an internist and cardiologist in Evanston, Ill.

Is the medical blogosphere dying? As I surf the Internet these days, I wonder.

The reality is this: the adoption of blogging by physicians has either waned or become flat. I believe it’s because blogging takes time, passion and commitment. And with all of the changes these past years, most of us are finding less and less time for social media as new pressures mount to produce. As doctors are pushed toward more production with more computer screen time than ever, something has to give.

Going Where The Patients Are

Adapted from a Jan. 28, 2014 post on The Doctor Blog by Howard Luks, an orthopedic surgeon in Hawthorne, N.Y.

Why am I blogging, pushing content through my website and even interacting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and many other sites? Because my patients are there. Increasingly, they are utilizing the Internet to self-diagnose; to look for “second opinions” from peers and friends; or to research a physician, recommended treatment or hospital.

We as physicians have a moral obligation to be sure that the information they are receiving is accurate. In short, we need to produce or curate online medical content to aid our patients.

Doctors often believe that they need to spend hours upon hours coming up with content; they believe there is too much risk in tweeting or putting a post on Facebook. Yet most studies show that physician content and social media interactions are perfectly appropriate. You know the rules—follow them.

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