Social Media
Jun 23, 2013

Doctors Are Using Social Media, Study Says ‘Best Practices’ Are Still Being Determined

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Social Media and Doctors

A growing number of medical doctors are turning to social media according to new research from Australia’s University of Adelaide.

The study set out to specifically determine the risks associated with medical “consulting” via social media outlets.

According to Media Studies Masters student Margarita Flabouris doctors throughout Australia have been encouraged to use social media outlets despite minimal guidelines for its use.

Flabouris says of social media use among medical professionals:

“The main message has been: this is new technology so we should use it. But there’s still little understanding among many health professionals about how or why to use it, how to use it well, and what the pitfalls might be. Most doctors use Twitter for peer-to-peer communication, but some are using it for health promotion and marketing purposes, providing information about health to the general public.

With more doctors taking to social media in Australia and around the world researchers are curious to see how such engagement can provide information that is relevant to social media users while at the same time continuing to maintain patient confidentiality.

Flabouris notes:

“Such issues are not new to the medical profession. However, the nature of social media technology is such that if there any problems with what doctors are saying to the public, those problems can become widespread very quickly.”

Professor Witter, Head of the University’s Discipline of Medicine uses social media to raise awareness of medical issues and he admits that “Twitter is very useful for multiple reasons.”

According to Professor Wittert:

“I like to make the public aware of any research we’ve published, so that they know this work can translate into health care. If someone else has published research that I think is interesting I also share it, so Twitter is very useful for disseminating that information. Also, if there are real problems with information out there in social media – such as about a drug or a device, and people are getting the wrong message – it’s relatively easy to correct it by using social media.”

The use of social media in the health profession will continue to grow, not only in Australia but around the world. As Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks enter into the mix we are likely to face more questions and solutions about medical doctors and their use of social networks.

Do you think medical doctors should be using social media to speak with patients and share information with the general public in regards to major medical issues and available practices?


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