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.