Can Social Media reduce Physician Burnout?

In late fall of 2011 I was tired of medicine. While seeing patients was still enjoyable, I felt under-appreciated in my employment and frustrated by the endless BS that I dealt with–new laws undermining the trust my patients place in me, increasing requirements from insurance companies for ordering tests or medications, more forms to sign, less time with patients, a cumbersome EHR to learn, more non-CME education requirements from the system I belonged to…the list grew endless. Most of it boiled down to less control over my professional life and less time to spend with the people I enjoyed-family, friends and patients.

The following February I began writing


a blog on my professional frustrations as well as the occasional reward. Shortly after that I discovered Twitter–first as a “lurker” listening in the background, then as an active participant. I met so many interesting people–physicians, e-patients, Social Media gurus, pharmacists, nurses, other healthcare providers, patient family members, the list is endless. Through Twitter my office knew early on about the multi-state fungal meningitis caused by tainted steroid vials, the Newtown shootings (unfortunately) and the Open Notes study. If Mayo and Cleveland Clinics were using Social Media to reach and teach their patients, it was likely that Social Media was not just a passing fad. Meanwhile my fascination with the phenomenon grew


I began a master’s level course on Social Media that is mind-blowing (and free) developed by +Bertalan Meskó, an MD-Phd from Hungary who is a Medical Futurist.

I read “The Creative Destruction of Medicine” by +Eric Topol who recently spoke  on the Colbert Report about the future of medicine. I submitted blogs and was  published by Dr. Kevin Pho, “social media’s leading physician voice”.

In October of 2012 I attended Mayo Clinic’s Social Media in Medicine Summit and met a few hundred people interested in how Social Media is changing medicine.

Patients now get a business card with the access site to a patient portal, my twitter handle and my blog site. They can contact me 24/7, understanding that I’ll answer with the same availability as my email.
In the process I found new ways to engage myself and my patients–using QR codes, putting up a white board in the exam rooms, recommending apps.


Last year’s experience served to recharge my professional gusto. Patients are more interesting, I deal with the non-stop frustrations with more aplomb and less emotional exhaustion. I look forward to seeing my new friends on the #hcsm tweetchat on Sunday night. Suddenly the future of medicine looks a lot less lonely and a lot more interesting.

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Finding a Better Way Down the Electronic Pathway

Clicking on a link from Twitter this morning, I read an article about how distracting email is in the workplace. That got me to thinking so I googled “digital distractions” and found this amusing infographic by David McCandless

It’s hard to see on my blog but my favorite part of the visualization are the words “partner shuts the lid of laptop on your fingers” encircling the star at the top. Sometimes I want to do the same to myself. One of the more physically painful manifestations of “too much computer” happened last week when my eyes began to sting, burn and water after going live with electronic medical records. Adding six more hours a day looking at the screen was some sort of ocular last straw.

In the risk vs. benefit analysis of computer use, where is the balance? Wednesday night I participated in an #mHealth twitter chat on the topic of “access to medical literature“. This was primarily about researching tools and how to find articles but because of the chat, it occurred to me just how often I utilize Twitter to access current medical information. Most of my contacts on Twitter are involved in mobile health or patient care so lots of very relevant information is tweeted and I click on the links. From genomes to medical policy to the latest treatments for atrial fibrillation, it all comes across the feed and when I have a moment I click, read or save and go on with life.

It’s still unclear to me how to balance my time, choose wisely with my clicks and still fill my life with all the other important moments. If someone else has found a better way down the electronic pathway, please let me know.

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Last night I participated in my second “Twitterchat”. With my first one I was simply a “lurker”, sitting in the background, watching the logistics and remarks. The topic of this one was mobile health, better know on-line as mHealth, and was sponsored by a group I follow on Twitter, iMedicalapps. This time I was an active participant as the group discussed several topics–how knowledgeable physicians are about mHealth, how it can help our patients and how to get more physicians to understand and use it.

While physicians have adopted personal use of Facebook and iPads in droves they are much more hesitant to use these tools on a professional basis for many reasons–time constraints, HIPAA concerns, no familiarity with the technology, etc. This Twitterchat’s purpose was to address those issues and see if individuals had ideas on how to make changes in physician habits.

After the chat was finished my reflections went somewhere along the lines of “Well that didn’t seem to be very helpful.” And then it hit me, the actual chat may not have been all that substantive, especially when everyone is talking at once and it is impossible to read all of the comments as they go whizzing by on the Tweetchat screen. What was of significance was meeting these individuals, seeing how they are approaching similar issues to your own and making contacts that could grow into collaborative efforts in the future. To quote Homer Simpson “DOH!”

Somewhere “out there” on the net, I read that Twitter is most akin to a giant cocktail party. It’s great metaphor but someday soon I hope to meet many of these fascinating people face-to-face. In the meantime I will lift a glass of wine as I tap my laptop keys and toast to this fascinating new technology.

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