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Embracing Social Media - Good Practice

Embracing Social Media – Good Practice

Facebook, Twitter and online patient support groups and forums can be a valuable medical resource, say doctors who have met in Victoria to discuss how they use social media.

Original Article by Rachel Worsley in 6-Minutes 

Queensland GP Dr Edwin Kruys says some of his patients have chosen to see him because they are aware of his presence on social media and have followed his discussions about health topics.

He draws the line at giving clinical advice online, however, and encourages people with specific presentations to see a doctor in person.

Dr Jill Tomlinson, a Victoria hand surgery specialist, says she uses Twitter and Facebook to share evidence-based information about her services as well as engage with patients.

She led a campaign earlier this year against proposed AHPRA guidelines that would have held doctors responsible for removing unsolicited testimonials posted by patients on websites and social media channels.

She says social media bridges the gap between patients and practitioners and are a force of positive change in healthcare.

Jen Morris, a public health researcher at the University of Melbourne, says doctors who are reluctant to recognise the value of social media may inadvertently lose patients’ trust.

She describes this as “cyber snobbery” and says it discourages patients from being honest with practitioners about why they are worried about a particular drug or vaccine, or about why they want to see a particular specialist.

Patients would continue to research their condition and seek opinion online regardless of discouragement from doctors, she told delegates at the “SoMebytheSea” conference.

The role of the modern doctor, she says, is to proactively address any inaccurate information found online and to navigate their patients to the best resources.

Ms Morris says social media adds to the principle of informed choice by providing ongoing feedback about the quality of service provided by practitioners.

Patients want to know about fees, bedside manner and insurance arrangements just as much as they want to know about medication side-effects and screening test accuracy, she says.

“These are the things that matter to patients and these are the things that they are sharing on social media.”

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