S&R Blog

The patient-physician social media triangle

There is an interesting discussion going on in the blogosphere surrounding a New York Times piece from last month titled, “Medicine in the age of Twitter.” It talks about the time constraints of physicians and how in the world of the internet and instantaneous media, a physician can provide offline consultation to patients when time is at a premium.

The piece was written by Dr. Pauline Chen, who is a proponent of social media interaction with patients. She states,

There continues to be anecdotal evidence regarding social media’s potential to strengthen the patient-doctor relationship. “One way I see that power is through education,” said Dr. Christian Sinclair, a physician for Kansas City Hospice who has created a palliative care network through his blog and Twitter. “I can help to inform the public, I can put the knowledge I have out there. And if there are patients or families who need this knowledge, I can help them because of this network.” Dr. Sinclair has, for example, helped individuals he has met through Twitter connect with local hospices, a process he believes was expedited by Twitter’s particular platform.

Obviously there are numerous positives and negatives to taking the patient-doctor relationship offline. But it would be interesting to see which type of physicians and patients were pro or against. You would assume that early-adopting or younger physicians and patients would be more in-tune with the changing outlets to medical information (61% of patients go online for health information). But the conversation developing at the Well Blog begs to differ. Some of the highlights are below.

“I am a physician and find the concept of augmenting patient care through social networking idiotic. Facebook, Twitter and similar venues are not an appropriate place for the sensitive nature of a patient physician encounter.”

“My doctor is not on Twitter (but he is on e-mail with me) but I do see a huge value in social media–as a rare disease patient, I’ve learned a lot from other patients and their lived experiences, and sometimes taking that knowledge into the exam room (or an e-mail) can really help us sort through decisions about treatments.”

“Initially, I was reluctant to communicate via email with patients; being an old-school internist it was seen as too impersonal. I’ve since changed my mind, and now wholeheartedly endorse electronic communications.”

“Outrageous. I can’t get my doctor to return a phone call, and yet he has time on his hands to gossip on the Internet and exchange tweets.”

“This piece and the MD postings are excellent testimonials confirming the 2006 WSJ HarrisInteractive research showing that 75% of patients want more access to their doctor online, while 75% of physicians don’t. What is missing from this commentary is that the options are not limited to Twitter or Email or Facebook.”

What do you think? Weigh in on the NYT or here.


2 Comments so far
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Please check out my blog at http://www.hospicephysician.wordpress.com, thanks.

Comment by hospicephysician

Good article! We are deeply engaged in finding social media solutions that work for physician to physician interactions as well as physician to patient interaction. The physician to physician interaction is well accepted especially among the 30-40 something physicians.

However physician to patient interaction is much more reserved. Based on surveys we have conducted, there is concern primarily about patient privacy and legal issues. I believe that will resolve over time as more security and familiarity with social medium tools is achieved.

Comment by Dave Recht

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