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We need more doctors online

Having been online, blogging and doing other social media, it has become increasingly clear to me that I need to be there—and that more doctors need to be there with me.


The main reason? Because that’s where the patients are.


We need more doctors and other health professionals writing good content, but getting online doesn’t necessarily mean writing. It could mean finding good websites and sharing them. It could mean commenting when we see something that we agree with—or don’t. It could mean engaging in one of the many conversations going on in social media about health.


It seems like most of the conversation about doctors being online involves concern about ethics and professionalism. I admit that I’ve seen some stuff on Facebook and Twitter that has made me cringe, and clearly it’s not a good idea to give specific medical advice online (nothing can replace a good history and physical examination). But this is all manageable.


Dr. Katherine Chretien did a study of Tweets sent by doctors and found that only 3% might be considered unprofessional, and less than one percent had any private patient information. Overall, these are small numbers. As my doctor-blogger colleague Wendy Sue Swanson says, we are way worse on elevators than we are online. It’s easy enough to come up with guidelines and education to help doctors navigate the online space ethically, professionally and safely. Another doctor-blogger friend of mine, Bryan Vartabedian, who writes a great blog called 33 Charts, has some really good ideas about this, including a recent post about how he handles online questions from patients.



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