Why Bother With Social Media If You’re A Doctor?

By:  David Kashmer (@DavidKashmer)


Only about 20 percent of all physicians are social media users. Of those doctors who do use social media, only about six percent use Twitter.  Social media isn’t a big part of healthcare culture. Many question the value it brings. And, of course, social media also has some severe downsides. We’ve all heard about the celebrity who gets angry and tweets something disastrous. That happens to doctors, too. They get angry and send some sort of career-ending tweet because it’s just so easy to push content to so many people at once. Mix tweeting with a tired physician who’s frustrated by the system and a dumb move is likely to occur. Social media is the ultimate permanent record—you can never get rid of an indiscreet message. And social media can be a very sloppy record, too, with its recording all sorts of incorrect information.  With all that perceived downside, why bother with the tinderbox of social media at all?


A Few Stories 


I’ll share one of my own reasons for bothering:  by not participating, I have no control at all over what is posted about me online. A few stories:  at one point there was positive content about me on the website of an organization. When a potential employer searched my name online, that website came up near the top. Sounds fine, except I didn’t want to be associated with that organization at all. I also didn’t want to say anything bad about that organization, and being associated with them closely was going to raise questions that would make it difficult for me to keep things positive.


I started thinking about it and realized that I have almost no control over the content of other sites, good or bad. Another example:  I found a site that said I was a cardiothoracic surgeon. (I’m not.) The picture was of somebody else, but it had my correct address and the profile was obviously me. Another site had the right photo but all the other information was wrong. I decided I had to control what was out there about me, or at least have a say in it, because the wrong information was only going to get worse. I had lots of five-star reviews on the doc rating sites but I knew it couldn’t stay that way forever. At some point, for whatever reason, someone was going to write something bad about me on one of those sites and, ut-oh, that wouldn’t be easy to get rid of.


That can happen to anyone but it’s a particular hazard in medicine. We see thousands of people a year at a bad time in their lives. They’re sick, stressed, in pain, and maybe angry. I’ve seen some of those critically ill patients in the ICU on their laptops. So consider this:  versed plus free hospital wifi equals “fail” for the ICU setting.


The patient’s emotions are fragile, they’re drugged, they may well not remember correctly every doctor they’ve seen over the past few days, and their judgment at that point is likely to be impaired. That doesn’t stop them from rating their health- care providers on the many doctor rating websites. (If you wondered why a patient who was healthy enough to even use a laptop was in the ICU at all, then you, my friend, think a lot like I do.) With all that in mind, here are some steps you can take to safely and constructively use social media…


The excerpt above is from The Hidden Curriculum:  What They Don’t Teach You In Medical School. For more information, and social media tools, tips, & tricks (starting on page 125) find the book here.