Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Lasso Doctors into Social Media

Should/could/can all U.S. physicians be writing blogs, sending and reading Tweets, and engaging with the www.wide world on Facebook?

Of course not.

But can we entreat many more doctors to move into social media networks? Can many more physicians use these tools to advance health care policy positions? To improve public health? To establish themselves as thought leaders? To advance their own practices?

Of course.

(l to r) Drs.Sinclair, Ryan,  Dyer, and Katz
Four "socially active" physicians speaking yesterday at the Mayo Clinic's "Health Care Social Media Summit" shared their own experiences and outlined some techniques to overcome their colleagues' primary objections:
  • I don't have time;
  • I'm too old;
  • I'm afraid of liability or violating patient privacy; and
  • I don't like/understand/trust the technology.
I'll walk through all of these issues in just a bit, but the primary objection was much more visceral and intimate: "I don't know why I should do this."

Why should physicians get involved in social media?

"I got into blogging out of jealousy; my wife had a blog," said Richmond, VA, family physician Mark Ryan, MD, who started writing about health system reform and what it would mean to underserved populations. "When my local newspaper wouldn't publish OpEds and letters to the editor, I started writing them for my blog instead."

You can read Dr. Ryan's blog, "Life in Underserved Medicine" at http://www.richmonddoc.blogspot.com/. You can find him on Twitter at @richmonddoc.

Kansas City hospice and palliative care physician Christian Sinclair, MD, said he tried to get too many other doctors to join the social media revolution at once. He admits he was "too enthusiastic, too evangelistic" about what social media could do when they weren't prepared for it. "I needed to meet them where they are at," he said.

That means you have to find what motivates each physician, said Dr. Sinclair, who blogs at http://www.pallimed.org/ and is @ctsinclair on Twitter. What problems do they want to solve?

Where else do you find that motivation? Here's a line that Jen Dyer, MD, a Columbus, Ohio, endocrinologist who is @endogoddess on Twitter, uses: "Are you tired of your patients bringing in Jenny McCarthy's vaccines-cause-autism articles?"

Time, Liability are "Meaningful Concerns" -- Age and Technology Aren't

Matt Katz, MD, a radiation oncologist at Saints Medical Center in New England, says you have to acknowledge physicians' concerns that social media will eat up too much time they don't have or expose them to new liability avenues. And, you can tell them that physician social-media trailblazers have already figured out how to put strict walls about their time online and use some basic common-sense standards to avoid HIPAA privacy violations.

You don't give specific patient advice online just as you wouldn't when giving a community health talk or in private conversations with people you don't know, said Dr. Sinclair. You just don't establish a patient-physician relationship via these networks.

Dr. Katz, who Tweets as @subatomicdoc, reminds prospective physician bloggers and YouTubers that once something is posted, it remains there forever. "Anything I put online, it's going to be something I want my mother to be able to read, my patients, my legislators, my partners," he said.

To protect yourself from the time suck that social media can be, Dr. Dyer recommends you start small. "The easiest way is to start with Twitter," she sad. "Say one thing a day."

Using social media can actually save time for a physician, Dr. Ryan said. He depends on the Twitter users he follows to curate the most important information for him so he doesn't have to look for it. That's what social media experts mean when they say "the news finds you."

"I'm a lot more well-read because of social media," Dr. Dyer said.

None of the panelists thought that age was a legitimate barrier -- "Except in how set they are in their ways," Dr. Sinclair said -- and social media tools are very easy to learn how to use.

Doctors "are really good at learning new things and retaining information and making it practical," Dr. Katz said.

Added Dr. Sinclair, "Can you text? Yes. Can you write an e-mail? Yes. Can you use Word? Yes. Then you can do this."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad from Peace Plaza,Rochester,United States

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