August 18, 2013


Social media is everywhere, in everything, and around everyone. There are sites like Facebook and Twitter, which are far more social and friend-based, as well as LinkedIn, which is more business-based, and oh so many more. Because social media is becoming increasingly more popular and used, American Medical News suggests that even doctors get into the social media scene.

In an article from July, American Medical News states, “As more patients share information online, practices can benefit from establishing a presence and providing patients with digital communication options.” Patients are using social media to seek suggestions, look up information, and even post reviews — both negative and positive — about their experiences with doctors. One social media site, called RateMDs.com, has an easy search tool to check out your own doctor, find a new doc, add reviews and doctors, and just generally browse reviews on doctors.

Doctors who do not participate in social media could lose patients not only because patients want the convenience of social media but also because social media allows patients to post reviews that could influence others. The article on American Medical News recommends doctors do the following:

  1. monitor their digital footprint to see what patients say about them;
  2. consider creating a practice website with a blog;
  3. open Facebook and Twitter accounts to post updates and general health reminders;
  4. have a LinkedIn profile;
  5. use RateMDs.com to have a health care industry profile.

Patients want more access to their doctors via social media and email. They want to make appointments online, get texts to remind them of their appointments (instead of the traditional phone call), and even interact with their physician via email. If people are already using social media to manage their health care, which many are, then perhaps it is time that doctors at least look into this.

However, there is also the little subject of time. Doctors already deal with the stress of patient after patient all day long. Just when will they find time for email, let alone social media? They would have to set aside at least an hour every day to do so, and that is an hour that an ill human might need.

So what does the American Medical Association say about social media? The organization outlines the following for physicians:

  • Use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the fullest extent possible on social networking sites.
  • Routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality is maintained.
  • Consider separating personal and professional content online.
  • Recognize that actions online and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.

I find all of this very interesting. On the one hand, it would be so nice to make an appointment online or to email with follow-up questions, but on the other, I am not sure that I would want to take a physician away from her patients. I am a visual person, so I would benefit from having an email with information from my doctor, but I would feel bad for taking away that time from others. It seems that perhaps doctors should, at the very least, have a website and monitor their digital footprints. Much more than that, though, just might be detrimental to the patients. I want my doctor’s full attention when I am in the office, so I would not want her stressing about answering emails, posting on Facebook, or tweeting. That’s just me, though.

Image Credit: auremar / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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