The Lurking Physician

In addition to reading a number of medical bloggers, I “lurk” on twitter chats and try to watch twitter updates from the 88 people I am currently following. The majority of the people I follow are doctors who are interested in how social media can help patients, plus a few “learning” entities like Brainscape just to improve my language studying skills (which I highly recommend). I am just a neophyte to Social Media but am excited by its potential for my patients.


Suddenly the ability to followup with patients directly without a medical assistant playing messenger in between seems more attainable. Communications would be cleaner and both physicians and patients would be better served. Right now I do this on a small scale by using email but this is fraught with difficulty. Patients send me their information and sometimes they cannot open my email response because it is encrypted (per HIPPA requirements). Other times their emails are caught by my spam filter and I never see them! As I’ve written about in previous posts, there are recommendations by august bodies like the AMA on how to use email professionally but frankly, they are both out-of-date and a little out-of-touch with their recommendations. However, having said that, HIPPA fines are substantive so no one wants to be caught in the wrong while communicating with patients.

In the meantime, patients are becoming more web and social media savvy. It is exciting to have a patient come in who has been on the Mayo clinic website and is asking about what preventive steps they should be taking instead of me initiating the discussion. It makes me feel like a partner in their care instead of a mother giving advice. I am a mother and I enjoy that role. Nurturing is part of healthcare but when I feel more like the disciplinarian then an advisor, neither I nor the patient are likely to benefit.

The “early adopter” physicians and e-patients on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, among others, are working hard to improve the lines of communication so that patient care is better. It’s an exciting time to be involved and I am looking forward to learning more and sharing a lot.

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Social Media and … mental health.

First of all–this blog has nothing to do with healthcare, other than my own mental health. This afternoon was a small demonstration of what an powerful tool social media can be. My husband was visiting our neighbor down the street for a play date for our airedale, Ensign.  The yard is large and somehow he found a way under the fence into the nature preserve behind. Tim called but Ensign had disappeared. While one friend combed the bushes in gloves and boots, four more of us looked through the neighborhood, knocking on doors and feeling frightened because we live in a VERY urban neighborhood full of heavy cars. Four hours later night fell and we had to give up the search. Nauseated and exhausted I texted a friend regarding our loss.

She suggested that I post the disappearance on Facebook. Not very hopeful, but needing something to do, I wrote a description of the dog, where he was last seen and included a picture. Within twenty-three minutes the following post appeared:

  • Whitney I know who has him!

  • Kathy Nieder You’re kidding?

  • Whitney No I’m not!

  • Whitney I’m waiting for him to give me his number so I can give it to you but he just posted that there was an Airedale terrier in his back yard and he lives in Clifton….

  • Ashley Lynn OMG I HOPE ITS HIM!

  • Barry I HOPE SO AS WELL…

  • Leigh US TOO!

  • Kathy Nieder IT’S HIM!!!!!

Our graphic artist friend Barry, who had been one of the four people combing the neighborhood, made up a poster and was on the way out the door to print several and hang them up when I called him with the news. So here is his post on my timeline:

Ensign had no idea what the fuss was about but my husband and I were ecstatic. As a bonus, I got to sleep last night, soundly and well.

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