New AHPRA Action campaign kicked off on Change.org

The AHPRA Action campaign has stepped up a notch. Medical Observer is now media partner, the protest action has a new logo (see image) and a new public petition kicked off yesterday.

A Parliamentary Inquiry found that the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme, managed by AHPRA “remains a large and complex bureaucracy with potential confusion over lines of responsibility and accountability.”

AHPRA’s new advertising guidelines are exposing Australian health professionals to unnecessary risks and create more red tape and confusion.

AHPRA regulates over 600,000 Australian healthcare practitioners and charges registration fees. Lawyers said about the new guidelines: “(…) the very broad wording in paragraph 6.2.3 of the updated advertising guidelines potentially exposes all health practitioners to a risk of breaching section 133(1)(c) of the National Law.”

Enough is enough – the advertising guidelines must be changed.

Sign the petition here

EDIT 28/03/14: SUCCESS! THE MEDICAL BOARD ANNOUNCED ON WEDNESDAY THAT IT WILL CHANGE SECTION 6.2.3 OF THE ADVERTISING GUIDELINES. THANK YOU FOR TAKING PART IN THE AHPRAaction CAMPAIGN!

AHPRA’s guidelines: Can someone tell me what just happened?

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency now says in its new guidelines that practitioners can be fined if patients post online testimonials praising the clinical care they received.

Last Friday, it seemed as if AHPRA had backed down on the harsh regulation. But is this really the case?

What does AHPRA say?

First of all, here’s a quote from the current guidelines:

a review (…) that states ‘Practitioner was quick to diagnose my illness and gave excellent treatment’, is a testimonial which references clinical care and is considered in breach of the National Law.

The guidelines also state that health practitioners must take steps to remove unsolicited testimonials appearing on any (social media) website not under their control. However, last Friday the medical board put out a media statement on the AHPRA website saying this:

The advertising guidelines apply to testimonials in the context of advertising (…) there is a clear difference between advertising – which requires an intent to promote the health services – and unsolicited online comment over which practitioners do not usually have control (…). The Board recognises that practitioners are unable to control what is written about them in a public forum.

The full statement can be found here.

3 unanswered questions

Indeed, this sounds a lot better than the official advertising guidelines – the medical press have used the words ‘backflip‘ and ‘backdown‘. However, the guidelines have not been updated, which leaves the following three questions unanswered:

1. If a patient posts a comment on my Facebook page stating that I gave excellent treatment, this is still considered in breach of the National Law according to AHPRA’s guidelines and I may be up for a fine if I don’t delete this friendly post. Will I be able to defend myself by referring to the media statement posted on the AHPRA website on 7 March 2014? If AHPRA is serious, the guidelines should be changed in accordance to their statement.

2. Health professionals need to know why our feedback about exactly this issue has not been taken on board in an earlier stage. The first draft guidelines appeared in 2012 and health practitioners were not impressed. The rules were already clear: we knew that testimonials in advertising are a no-go (and I don’t mean unsolicited Facebook comments from patients) – and of course this applies to websites, social media, the classroom, the elevator and anywhere else.

In AHPRA’s udated draft guidelines (2013) the issue of patient feedback vs testimonials had not been addressed, which again led to a storm of online comments as well as another lot of official submissions. See also this post (April 2013). As we know, the final version was published last month and positive patient feedback is not allowed, but then again on Friday the board seemed to think that patient comments are not advertising.

3. As the advertising guidelines are common to all national boards (e.g. dental, nursing & midwifery, psychology etc) we need to know if and how the statement by the medical board will be applied to the other 13 disciplines.

I’m happy with the clarification by medical board chair, Dr Joanna Flynn, and I agree it is a step in the right direction. But it still seems unnecessary government interference, and, after three revisions, the guidelines leave important questions unanswered.

Blogging: What do you write when you have nothing to say?

The SoMeGP team was presenting about social media and blogging at the recent GP Education & Training conference (GPET13) in Perth, when this great question came from the audience: “What do you write when you have nothing to say?”

It is a common problem and the fear of every writer and blogger: not knowing where to start. Yet, the medical profession is full of topics to write about. In fact, most doctors, especially GP supervisors, have enough experience to explain a range of topics to patients, registrars, students and staff. It’s just a matter of putting these words in writing.

If you can email, you can blog. But the great thing of online media is that there are many ways to present information: traditional blogs, videos, podcasts, slide shows etc.

Take time to figure out what you want to do with your blog before you begin. Here are some tips to get started:

#1: Write for patients

Debunking myths is always a hit, and (de-identified) questions from our patients are a great place to start: Does hypertension always cause a headache? Is tonsillitis contagious? Can the flu shot cause influenza? Are antibiotics effective against sinusitis? Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Should I have an annual cancer test? Blog about smoking cessation, healthy foods tips, how to perform CPR, etc

#2: Write for colleagues

Most doctors have a passion or field of interest, and sharing this knowledge or skills is fun and much appreciated by many colleagues. GP supervisors could help registrars by blogging about exam preparation, study tips, or asking & answering questions in blogs and online forums, like FOAM4GP.

#3: Write about the profession

Never a dull moment in health care. We have got a wonderful profession, but the ever-changing rules, ‘good ideas’ and intentions by policy makers and the flood of bureaucracy and red tape need to be reviewed and discussed, and blogging is a very effective way to do this. Work-life balance is another ongoing challenge. If you are passionate about a topic, do your research and share it with the world – we want to hear from you!

It sometimes helps to write things down during the day or use one of the many free apps, like Evernote, to collect and organise your thoughts and ideas. The advantage of Evernote is that it captures anything, can be accessed from mobile devices and computers and syncs between them.

And remember, a good blog post doesn’t have to be long: 300-500 words fine. Still in need of inspiration? Have a look at my number 1 blogging tip you should always keep in mind.

7 online eSafety tips for doctors

It is good to see that social media and eHealth are becoming mainstream topics at national health conferences. At the recent GP Education & Training Conference in Perth (GPET13) I attended two workshops about our professional online presence.

The first one was about the benefits of social media and was attended by GP supervisors, registrars and students. The second one, sponsored by a medical defence organisation, warned about the dangers of the online world, and interestingly there were mainly GP supervisors in the room.

Before I continue I must declare that I was one of the presenters at the first workshop. But it was good to be reminded by professor Stephen Trumble about what can go wrong. His excellent presentation created a lively discussion. Here are seven random points I took home from the workshop:

Tip #1

Doctors should be careful when looking up patients online, eg via Google. In general this is only acceptable if doctors are acting in the interest of patients, for example when trying to find contact information in an emergency.

Tip #2

Privacy settings of Facebook and other social media tools may change or fail, therefore: do not trust these settings. Assume that everything posted online, even in private networks and groups, is public. I have blogged about the elevator test, which is one way to check if something is suitable before posting.

Tip #3

Taking pictures of patients or their body parts is fine as long as the patient has been made aware of the purpose and who will see the picture, has given consent prior to taking the picture and has been de-identified. When doctors publish the picture online, consent must be noted within the publication. If the picture is later used for other purposes, the patient must again give consent.

Tip #4

When doctors collect patient information on their mobile devices, eg when taking a picture with a smart phone or when using a transcription service, these devices must be protected from misuse, unauthorised access, alteration or disclosure. The simple passcode on iPhones is generally deemed insecure (but can be made more secure in the phone settings). If patient information is stored overseas on cloud systems, local security laws apply and they may not meet Australian standards.

Tip #5

Old smart phones, even if factory settings have been restored and the data erased, still contain information. This is of course also true for USB sticks, practice computers, photocopiers with a hard disc etc.

Tip #6

I have blogged about the issues with Skype in patient care. From the handout: “Skype is not recommended for telehealth consultations but has not been deemed ‘unsuitable’. There are privacy, confidentiality and quality issues and many doctors who start with Skype end up upgrading to commercial systems.”

Tip #7

Last but not least: email is not suitable to transfer patient information. Encrypted email is the preferred option.

It is sad that the eHealth practice incentive payments (PIP) by the government are only paid to practices taking part in the PCEHR. As a result costly software, system and security upgrades will not be a budget priority for many practices.

Sources:

  • Online communication for education: risks, responsibilities and rewards. Workshop by Prof Stephen Trumble, Ms Nicole Harvey. GPET 13 Conference, Perth
  • General professionalism online – handout by MDA National
  • Informed consent and Telehealth – handout by MDA National
  • Telehealth tips – handout by MDA National

Social media in healthcare: Do’s and don’ts

Facebook in health care
Image: pixabay.com

‘Reputation management’ was the topic of an article in the careers-section of this month’s Medical Journal of Australia. As I have blogged about reputation management before I was asked a few questions about the way my practice has used Facebook.

I think Facebook and other social media have the potential to improve communication with our patients and colleagues and make healthcare more transparent – if used wisely of course.

Unfortunately the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has scared the healthcare community with their social media guidelines. Doctors are now being told by medical defence organisations to be even more careful with social media, but I’m not sure I agree with the advice given.

Do’s & don’ts

Here are the do’s and don’ts as mentioned in the MJA article:

  • “Do allow likes and direct messaging on the practice Facebook page, but don’t allow comments. This will avoid any dangers associated with comments classed as testimonials by AHPRA. It also avoids problems such as bullying that may occur when comments are made about other comments.”
  • “Don’t respond to negative remarks online, as it risks falling into the category of unprofessional conduct if brought before the medical board.”
  • “Don’t befriend patients on Facebook if you are a metropolitan practice, Avant’s Sophie Pennington advises, so as to keep some professional distance. She says that in regional and rural areas it can be unrealistic to have this separation.”
  • “Do link your Facebook page to your website, LinkedIn and any other profiles you have set up online. This will help to ensure that these options appear higher on the search-page listings when others look for your name.”
  • “Don’t google yourself!”

Negative vs positive feedback

I think negative comments online are a great opportunity to discuss hot topics (such as bulk billing and doctors shortages) and to engage with the community in a meaningful way. Positive feedback by patients is wonderful and should not be discouraged, as long as it’s not used as a way to advertise health services.

Health practitioners should be supported to communicate safely online. But not allowing Facebook comments is defeating the purpose of social media.

The list of Australian GP Bloggers

Who said GPs don’t have time to blog? Here’s the evidence to the contrary: An impressive list of awesome Australian GP bloggers, also present on Twitter and other social media in 2013. You’ll find some amazing stories here. It’s definitely worth checking out on a lazy afternoon… Enjoy!

Dr Linda Calabresi

GP, blogger, writer, Australian Doctor stalwart, mother, wife, friend. Sydney, Australia. Blogs at: Cirrus Media

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Jen Carrick

Christian, wife, mum, General Practitioner, sewer, cook, walker in parks, medical educator. Interested in interesting things. Also known as Jen Morrison! Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr David Chessor

GP Registrar. Loquacious in real life. #closethegap ‪#Indigenoushealth ‪#FOAMed ‪#FOAM4GP. Port Macquarie. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Melanie Clothier

I’m a rural GP trainee & am always learning from my patients. I love music, good company, food, wine & coffee. Excited about #FOAM4GP. Views my own. Clare, South Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Justin Coleman

President, Australasian Medical Writers Assoc. GP, Inala Indigenous Health. Medical editor. Snr lecturer UQ & GU. Blogger; The Naked Doctor. Brisbane. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Gerry Considine

Rural GP in the making @AOGPtraining | ‪@RA_Aus pilot | ‪@StompTheOrange guitarist | Tweets/thoughts my own. Get around ‪@gmeporg & ‪#FOAM4GP. South Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr George Crisp

Lives in the most exciting, precarious time in history. Could see transition to a just and sustainable future or total collapse. Perth, WA. Blogs at: Blogspot

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr George Forgan-Smith

Melbourne, Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Andrew Gunn

Just another chimp. Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Duncan Jefferson

Thirty five years of medicine have given me some unique insights into Medicine: yet there’s still so much to learn. Perth, Western Australia. Blogs at: Blogspot

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Joe Kosterich

An independent doctor actually talking about health. Perth Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Edwin Kruys

Husband, father, GP. I blog about healthcare, social media & eHealth. Western Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Minh Le Cong

Flying Doctor, rural GP, I work in the sky, live in the tropics, love my family and dream of how to make things better . Supporter of #FOAMed. Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Tim Leeuwenburg

Kangaroo Island doc, enjoy roadkill recipes, kitty-Minh, airway enthusiast. EMST-ATLS Director #FOAMed & ‪#SMACCGOLD. Kangaroo Island, Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Go to blog (ruraldoctors.net)

Follow on Twitter

Dr Jocelyn Lowinger

Mum to 4 kids (& their chickens), doctor and writer. Tweets aren’t medical advice. RT not endorsement. I blog about ideas and stuff. Sydney, Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Ginni Mansberg

Sydney GP w extracurricular activities at Sunrise & Morning Show (Channel7), Embarrassing Bodies Down Under, various mags + lots of kids & failed opera career. Sydney, Australia. Blogs at: Mane Creative

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Casey Parker

Rural doc, author of the Broome Docs blog. Generalist, #FOAMed supporter and contributor. Broome, NW Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Marlene Pearce

Rural GP Registrar. Indigenous Health. Social conscience. Professional writing. World traveller. Crafty nanna-before-her-time. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Francois Pretorius

Procedural Obstetric GP; Ruralist; Passionate GP educator; Christian; Husband to 1; father to 4; wine lover and chef. Noosa, Qld, Australia. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Karen Price

GP, and Chair of Women in General Practice Committee Vic. RACGP. Interested in Most things. My own thoughts here. Melbourne. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Mark Raines

GP, photographer, kayaker, Dad.. and face painting victim…. Kangaroo Island. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Joe Romeo

Fulltime country GP, aspiring songwriter/ worship songwriter, father of 6, follower of Jesus Christ. Narrandera, Australia. Blogs at: Blogspot

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Tim Senior

GP in Aboriginal health & medical education. Find almost anything interesting. Amateur writer, violist, gardener. Opinions could be mine, and aren’t employers’. Tharawal Nation, Australia. Blogs at: Blogspot

Go to blog

Go to blog (Indigenous Health)

Follow on Twitter

Dr Michael Tam

Michael Tam is a Sydney General Practitioner, and Lecturer in Primary Care in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales. Sydney. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Arron Veltre

Locum itinerant GP who dabbles in long course triathlon and collects 80’s skateboards… Blogs at: Blogspot

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Penny Wilson

GP obstetrician and rural locum doctor. Interested in teaching and training, leadership and advocacy. Enthusiastic about SoMe and #FOAMed. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

Dr Genevieve Yates

Doctor, medical educator, writer and musician, who believes that you can do it all, just not all at once. Supports #FOAMed #FOAM4GP #MedEd #SoMeGP. Blogs at: WordPress

Go to blog

Follow on Twitter

AHPRA’s draft social media policy

The 2012 draft social media policy by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) caused a lot of upheaval. Health professionals expressed concerns it was too prescriptive. Now there’s a new version and the organisation is requesting feedback.

A 76-page consultation paper has been posted on the AHPRA website and it includes drafts of the social media policy, revised Code of conduct, revised Guidelines for advertising and revised Guidelines for mandatory notifications.

It looks like AHPRA has taken the feedback on the earlier version on board. The new draft Social media policy is less prescriptive. Health professionals have to follow strict professional values, no matter if they’re in the elevator at work, the pub, or on Twitter or Facebook.

What does it say?

Most of it is common sense, but I thought these two changes were worth mentioning:

  • Health practitioners are expected to behave professionally and courteously to colleagues and other practitioners, including when using social media (Code of conduct 4.2c).
  • Testimonials on Facebook and other social media networks have to be removed by health practitioners (Guidelines for advertising 7.2.3).

I’ve read all 76 pages but it’s not entirely clear to me what exactly a testimonial is and whether I’m now required to remove my LinkedIn testimonials and endorsements by colleagues from around the world.

Also, it will require some explaining when removing or refusing friendly, unintended testimonials from our patients on e.g. Facebook, and worse, it may even put health practitioners off social media. I won’t mention Google testimonials – they are impossible to remove. It would be great if AHPRA can provide some clarification and reassurance here.

Interestingly, an issue that causes heated debates has not been mentioned, namely anonymous posting on social media networks by health practitioners who are identifying themselves as such, but are using a pseudonym instead of their real name. Some say it’s important for e.g. whistleblowers to be anonymous, others say health professionals always have to be identifiable. But perhaps it’s a wise decision by AHPRA not to open this can of worms.

Good or bad?

The problem with regulations like this is that it increases liability for health professionals and practices already operating in a highly regulated industry – especially against a backdrop of the recent national eHealth developments and the legal issues that health providers are facing when signing up for the PCEHR. Some of the risks are: less innovation and progress, a defensive attitude by practitioners, higher legal and insurance costs, increased AHPRA fees and eventually more costs for patients.

That brings me to the risk management paragraph in AHPRA’s draft Code of conduct, which states that it’s good practice “to be aware of the principles of open disclosure and a non-punitive approach to incident management”. I wonder if AHPRA is going to follow this advice when a practitioner breaches a social media clause. Something tells me that the regulator will follow a punitive approach if we forget to delete Mrs Jones’ friendly Facebook recommendation.

10 reputation management tips for doctors

A patient complained about a doctor on Facebook and generated a lot of online traffic. The story was reported in the newspapers. The Medical Board started an investigation. Pending the outcome the doctor relocated to another city. This left the local community without a doctor as no replacement could be found.

A year later the doctor’s name was cleared by the board. But the damage was done. And for many years the article kept showing up in Google search results in relation to the doctor as well as her old practice.

The good news is that I made this scenario up. The bad news: reputation damage can happen to all of us. Pro-active online reputation management should be part of a healthy risk mitigation strategy.

Here are 10 simple tips about how I manage my online reputation and improve Google rankings. You can do it too, it’s easy. It is applicable to your personal brand (your name) as well as your organisation.

#1: Respond to customer needs and expectations

Prevention is better than cure. Our managers act on complaints immediately, as negative comments have the potential to spiral rapidly out of control, especially online. Here is an example of how not to handle a social media crisis.

Our quality assurance committee starts its meetings with a ‘good, bad and ugly’ review of the past month. The group looks at any problems or feedback received, including e.g. Facebook comments. We’re not perfect by any means, but this approach allows our organisation to improve patient services on an ongoing basis.

#2: Create, promote, and update your own online content

Develop a professional website but don’t stop there! Start a Blog. Create social media profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter, and update your profiles regularly. This will improve search engine rankings so your own content will show up first.

#3: Interconnect your online profiles

This will further improve rankings. Splash pages like about.me help to connect your profiles in one place.

#4: Encourage constructive criticism and respond timely to feedback

Engage when people post comments. Respond preferably on the same day. Look at feedback as free business advice. Thank the reviewer and explain your point of view. We have learned from the comments on our practice website and practice Facebook page.

#5: Don’t argue online (and offline)

Set an example. Be a leader. I know this is not always easy, but an angry response is as bad as no response. Be aware that clients/patients/customers may be watching. Avoid deleting comments as this will usually not help your case.

#6: Monitor the web

Google yourself and your organisation at least weekly. Set up Google alerts for your own name and other brands or topics you would like to follow. Free services like peekyou.comSocialmention.com, and Veooz.com can be helpful. There are lots of other tools to watch your web presence.

#7: Correct and improve information on external sites

Most sites will update your details at no cost. Some sites like HealthEngine or HealthOptions Australia may have added your name and address but will only allow you to update details or improve your listing after paying a subscription fee.

If you feel a review about you or your organisation is incorrect or unfair ask the owner of the website to make amendments. If that’s not an option request to write a comment on the feedback. Google will only remove reviews if they contain unlawful content, are spam, off-topic or if there is a conflict of interest.

Google offers useful tips about how to respond to reviews.

#8: Improve positive content, push down negative content

There are many reputation management services on the web. They improve rankings and make it harder for negative content to show up high in search results. Brandyourself.com is a free reputation management tool to improve your personal search results. You need to have a social media profile and a website before you start.

#9: Be ready to engage with traditional media

Have an official spokes person. Consider media training. I like to give journalists a written summary of the main message our organisation wants to bring across.

#10: Know the rules

The AHPRA guidelines explain the advertising limitations under the ‘Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009’. The Good Medical Practice Code of Conduct includes principles about how to respond to complaints. If in doubt, ask your medical defence organisation.

If you want to know how not to use social media – and stay out of trouble – have a look at the AMA social media guidelines.

Doctors, this is why you should be blogging

Most people today google their health problems. Unfortunately, not all information Doctor Google throws at us is correct. Sometimes online information is downright misleading.

Providing accurate information through blogs and social media platforms is a good way to respond to incorrect online health messages.

Doctors are in a unique position to educate. By sharing knowledge online the public, the health care system and the doctor, will all benefit.

The two reasons why doctors should be blogging are:

  1. Debunking myths: Clarifying the common misunderstandings about health issues.
  2. Sharing information about health, disease and its management.

Advantages 

UK GP Dr Anne Marie Cunningham has a great blog called Wishful thinking in medical education. In this post she mentioned two things she enjoys about blogging:

  • To learn from others via the comments she receives on her blog.
  • To help develop her thought process and “get some way to understanding what has been perplexing me”.

US cardiac electrophysiologist Dr John Mandrola gives another six reasons in his blog:

  • Doctors are passionate about what they do and blogging is a way of sharing this.
  • To educate; both the student and the teacher can learn from a blog.
  • To help others help themselves.
  • To give a look behind the medical scene.
  • To archive useful thoughts and notes.
  • To show that doctors are humans too. He writes: “Though doctors seek perfection, we tire, become frustrated, make mistakes, and harbor regrets. We are you. We are human.”

If you can email you can blog

A common question patients ask me is whether the influenza vaccine can bring on an infection with the viral disease – so I wrote a post about why the flu shot cannot cause flu. To answer questions about bulk billing I wrote this post. I refer patients actively to my blog.

Most doctors are experts in discussing health concerns and educating their patients in a one-on-one situation. There are many health messages doctors share with their patients. All that is needed is to write these down, just like writing an email, and post the information on the web in blog format.

Setting up a blog takes 20 minutes. Not sure how to start? Here are some of my tips summarised in a slide show.

Doctors, this is why you should be tweeting

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.

Change

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.

Twitter

Tweeting changed my life in many ways. I’ve learned new things from the people I’ve met online, including patients. Tweeting forces me to think things over. I believe Twitter has the potential to make makes us better persons and better doctors.

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 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 often down-time, when I’m waiting, or taking a break. I spend between 5-30 minutes per day on Twitter and other social media, mostly reading posts and articles – like this 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)

Starting with Twitter takes 10-20 minutes. Not sure where to begin? Here are some of my Twitter tips.