Physicians Divided on Using Social Media To Connect With Patients

Physicians have different views about whether it is appropriate to use social media tools to connect with patients, the Seattle Times reports.

Physician Proponents of Social Media

Wendy Sue Swanson -- a pediatrician at The Everett Clinic and Seattle Children's Hospital who blogs and uses Twitter -- said that credible online health information often is overshadowed by sales pitches or medical anecdotes from celebrities. She said, "If celebrities are going to be online, then we educated, practicing physicians had better be there, too."

Matt Handley -- a family doctor and medical director for quality and informatics at Group Health Cooperative, a Seattle-based health care system -- is a proponent of physicians using social media to connect with patients. He said that being a good doctor requires conversation, adding, "The more you understand and know about a patient, the more you can understand what matters for them."

Concerns About Physicians' Use of Social Media

However, other physicians have expressed concern about using social media in their profession. For example, some doctors have said that using social media tools could:

  • Alter physician-patient relationships;
  • Be too time-consuming for busy clinicians; and
  • Lead to violations of patient privacy.

John Lantos -- director of the Children's Mercy Bioethics Center at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. -- said it still is unclear how social media should be used in patient care. He said, "As we're using it, we're starting to figure out what it's good for, what it's bad for ... what the risks and benefits are" (Ostrom, Seattle Times, 8/11).

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