Like the members of nearly every other niche in 2012, those in the medical profession, including doctors, are increasingly turning to social media and blogging for both personal and professional use. While that may seem an innocuous thing to some, its very core has seen the creation of a deep and divisive debate in the medical community concerning the potential threats and boons of social media in medicine.
At the core of the debate is the claim by some that candid social media use by medical professionals will inevitably lead to inappropriate or mistakenly misleading content that could lead to misuse and, potentially, a malpractice suit.
While many social media-savvy doctors are quick to point out the benefits, both realized and potential, that utilizing these platforms offer to the medical community, the problems of self-diagnosis, misinformation and potential liability have kept the community as a whole from fully embracing the technology.
The Risk of “Never Events”
A so-called “never event” is a term used within medical circles that references any inexcusable outcome in health care; it would cover, for example, a breach in doctor-patient confidentiality. Given the candid and potentially anonymous nature of social media and the need for doctors to reference previous experience in dealing with patients, opponents often point out the vastly increased risk of a doctor overstepping their bounds, whether intentionally or unintentionally, while operating inside of the loose confines of the internet.
Obviously, doctors using social media for professional purposes need to be careful with confidentiality and other risks of discussion but this is no less true in offline social circles, where friends, family and even colleagues are often stifled in conversation by a doctor’s need to protect intimate details and patient identity.
The Positive Potential
Putting all risks and potential negative outcomes aside for a moment, the positive potential of social media in medicine is undeniable. As internet forums and answer sites offering terribly misinformed health diagnoses slowly gravitate towards better-managed and more accurate resources, doctors may feasibly be able to expect a lightened workload through better initial care at home and improved education of patients, each leading to less visits to professionals.
Better informed patients, in particular, offer doctors the ability to diagnose more quickly and accurately given the better patient reports of symptoms and are more likely to successfully complete prescribed medications and other at-home solutions than their less educated counterparts. While doctors dealing with the flux of “informed” patients who come to them straight from Yahoo! Answers may groan inwardly at the thought today, an effort to consolidate and improve online medical resources through the natural tendency to be involved in the growing trend of social media has the ability to change this.
There can be no definitive answer regarding whether social media use in the medical profession is a risk worth the potential rewards; rather, given the freedom of each doctor to utilize the technology as they see fit, within boundaries, the better question is one of adaptation and streamlining. With appropriate boundaries in place, doctors would be able to utilize social media for a myriad of uses, ranging from personal to professional, all leading to improved public health and understanding of the many medical difficulties that every one of us faces.
So what can you discuss medicine-wise on social media (and what you can’t)?
|Good question to ask||Bad question to ask|
|How much would liposuction cost for just my hips?||Shoul I get liposuction before getting pregnant?|
|What is the difference between a full tummy tuck and a mini?||Do I need a cosmetic surgery?|
|What are the different types of headaches?||Which drugs are best for a headache|
Given our shared ailments and diseases, it seems only natural that, given a platform to achieve it, humankind is eager to take that sharing a step further. How the medical profession chooses to approach this trend over the next decade will go a long way towards shaping the look and, more importantly, the feel of health care for many years to come.