Some doctors join Facebook, Twitter; others wary –

Some doctors join Facebook, Twitter; others wary – – This article was brought to my attention by colleagues who wonder, “Is this what social media for physicians is about, marketing your practice?”

I think what’s in that question, and what the title of the piece creates the feeling of in my mind (am I wrong?), is that people want doctors to participate and communicate with them where they are to help them achieve their life goals through optimal health.

As I read the article more closely, it seems to me that the doctors interviewed, including well read @kevinmd , appear to be as inquisitive about social media as a health improvement tool as my colleagues are.

I think we’ll get there. Why?

We’ll learn that social media is about communication, not technology

Physician Michael Laccheo was quoted that he knows “amazing doctors who don’t know how to type.” I have a feeling that they are are probably amazing because they are good communicators.  If the hurdle is learning the tools, and technology, that’s a far easier task than the hurdle of good communication.

A perfect example to me of this was a conversation I had just today with @ReginaHolliday . She told me over a warm beverage how she didn’t use computers at all before embarking on her patient advocacy work. No facebook. No twitter. If you see / hear her now, you can’t believe this was ever the case. She’s a great communicator that was liberated by the technology, once she had the need and time to learn them.

We’ve already learned that participating with patients online has significant benefits

The study this week published in Health Affairs demonstrating improved quality measures through the use of patient-physician e-mail at Kaiser Permanente shows this through published data.

Watch toward the end of this video where Michael Kanter, MD says that this is something that a “few thousand doctors and a few million members who are trying out a new means of medical care.” This speaks to a comfort level of one of the most important things social media brings – connection to patients where they are.

Patients will expect us to join them, and we like being there for our patients

We definitely need to use this medium responsibly. While there will be those who will be anxious about it, and those who will make others anxious about it (here’s an example I came across today), we are irresistibly drawn to the idea of “being there.”

Image from Wikipedia

We’ve never stopped trying to learn how to be better when we are physically present with patients. We’ll work to create the same benefit from just being “present.” Are there patients that don’t want us to explore this?


Dr. Livingston , who is one of the physicians featured in the USAToday article, is using another online tool to be there for his patients: a secure patient email system designed by Kryptiq Corp. that allows patients to discuss personal health issues online, but in a private, secure setting. By offering secure email to his patients, Dr. Livingston overcomes any fear that they will violate their own privacy by posting sensitive healthcare data on social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Secure messaging is operated through a secure patient portal that allows patients to set appointments, receive test results, and communicate one-on-one with their medical practice about specific, private health questions and concerns. The portal also allows patients to access their full medical chart from a secure online source. This system meets HIPAA compliance and allows the clinic to balance the need for secure, trackable communication with patients.

The system is resonating extremely well with patients. One patient posted a comment on Macarthur OBGYN's Facebook page about how much she likes having 24/7 access to her confidential data, saying, "I checked my lab results on my cell phone 2 days after my appointment!!! 5 stars for efficiency."

Secure messaging can also provide the practice with increased efficiency by reducing the number of phone calls a practice receives, and by allowing for more concise communications, EMR integration, automatic documentation of a conversation, online bill-pay, e-Visits, and more.

Any physician who is looking at social media as an effective way to connect with patients should also consider coupling it with a secure email system, which can complement the online communication benefits for social sites without compromising private information. It’s just one more way physicians can empower their patients to take an active role in their own care management.

Ted Eytan, MD