Our practice accountant looked concerned when I told him our practice had joined Facebook and I had started tweeting. He rightly said that even de-identified patient data had the potential to create a medico legal nightmare.
But I wanted him to join social media because he has a wealth of knowledge about general practice and health care, and I thought it would be great for doctors to follow him.
In the months after our little chat I kept feeding him articles and blog posts about the benefits of Twitter and social media in health care and business. He read all the articles and did some thorough background research. Finally he made the jump.
He revamped his website, opened social media accounts, and started tweeting and posting on Facebook. He even started sharing recorded YouTube videos. Now, a few years later, his LinkedIn account has over 500 connections.
He really got it. He understands the power of social media like no other and is using it to share his ideas and dreams about a sustainable and socially responsible health care system. He interacts with clients and reaches a larger audience than ever before.
Tweeting has also changed my life. Everyday I’m learning new things – from the awesome people I’ve met online, including patients. Tweeting forces me to think things over. I firmly believe Twitter makes me a better person and a better doctor.
Publisher and social media coach Michael Hyatt has written a blog post everybody should read: 12 reasons to start twittering. His reasons range from staying up to date, to enriching his life, and sharing friendships. If you’re new to Twitter he also has a useful beginner’s guide to Twitter.
And yes there are some risks. I already mentioned sharing patient data on Twitter which is a big no-go, like it would be anywhere else outside the health care setting. The RCGP (UK) has published a very good ‘Social Media Highway Code’ for doctors, which deals with the most common pros and cons of social media. When promoting services, keep the AHPRA guidelines in mind.
Doctors and social media
The time I spend on social media is usually down-time, when I’m waiting, or taking a break. I spend about 30 minutes per day on Twitter and other social media, mostly reading posts and articles – like the one shared by GP Gerry Considine (Twitter handle:@ruralflyingdoc) about the use of social media by doctors. The conclusion of the article:
[…] the use of social media applications may be seen as an efficient and effective method for physicians to keep up-to-date and to share newly acquired medical knowledge with other physicians within the medical community and to improve the quality of patient care. (Article here)