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Should we all be Tweetiatricians?

Nov 19, 2019 1:32 pm

I’m excited to participate as a RheumNow reporter at this year’s ACR.  As we head into the conference, I reflect on the role Twitter will have this week and on a larger scale, the role of social media in medicine. 

In the digital era, it’s hard to ignore the influence of social media. It can be a powerful educational tool. But with any power, comes responsibility. As the future generations of physicians are being trained in the digital era, they too will need to learn to use this tool wisely.  

Twitter is a large platform with the opportunity to change public perception and there are many public health opportunities. The World Health Organization uses Twitter and used this platform to reach their 11,700 followers during the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic.  Twitter analytics can show how many people saw, engaged and shared your tweet. A tweet can be far-reaching. 

Tweets can also provoke discussion and innovation within our rheumatology community. It’s a journal club in the palm of your hands. It can also provide emotional, peer and social support. It allows opportunity to ask probing questions and share patient dilemmas. 

Yes, the information exchanged needs to be monitored for quality and reliability.  Opinions from nonmedical experts can also cause confusion. This is why I feel physicians should participate in these discussions. Health care providers, need to recognize and understand the social media landscape, where the conversations about them are already being held, and develop their own strategies.

The evidence base is currently lacking on whether the use of social media can improve patient outcomes. The reality is that individual doctors and medical organizations have to consciously decide if, why and how to use the various social media platforms. While use of social media could potentially increase the exposure of physicians to disciplinary and medicolegal issues, those physicians who choose to use social media can help shape how these tools can improve health care in the future. This years ACR has sessions focusing on the use of social media (3S019 Doctor, Should I Get this App?; 4M008 Tweets & Trolls: How to Handle Social Media).

Dr. Cush’s  RheumNow can help enhance the conference experience, keep us up to date, and aid in our ongoing education. We can all use social media, use it wisely and become media mentors for the next generation of physicians. 

With our words, we explain, we comfort, we reassure, we educate, we shape behavior, and we inspire.” -Dr. Richard Besser (President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, former acting director of the CDC, former chief health and medical editor of ABC News)

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