Blogging, Microblogging, and Time

I have become so enamored with Twitter that I have been writing less for this blog…. which got me thinking….

doctor-twitter

Both my Twitter account and this blog serve the same purpose – to  serve as a “tool kit” for medical students, residents and practicing docs.  But it’s really interesting how different they are in accomplishing this goal.

Twitter is the equivalent of  the “surgeon’s lounge” – comments about interesting things you’ve seen or heard, showing people something in the news, or short pieces of advice.   Writing for a blog is more like sitting down in a quiet space with a colleague to discuss a topic, work on a project or give advice.

There is one important aspect of Twitter that is particularly interesting for physicians. If there is serious breaking news, Twitter will probably hear it first.   A good example is how the CDC uses Twitter. It can also be used to update everyone in a medical school or hospital.  Another interesting use of Twitter for physicians is “tweeting” medical meetings.

There is a learning curve for all social media.  Twitter, in particular, can become a remarkable time waster with little benefit.  If you are a busy student, resident or physician and want to use Twitter efficiently, here are some ideas that might help

  • A busy resident told me that he uses Twitter only for the news.  He gave up reading the newspaper and watching CNN to follow them on Twitter.  He reads the headlines and uses the link to read only the articles that interest him .
  • It’s not Facebook.  Anyone who starts tweeting about where they are going to get coffee gets “unfollowed” immediately.  For busy professionals, Twitter is not the best way to connect with friends.  It is, however, a fantastic way to connect you to communities, causes, issues, etc.  The way this is done is with hashtags (markers for a common theme).   For example, people interested in medical education use #meded.

Healthcare hashtag project

Medical hashtages on hashtags.org

  • It’s not email.  You don’t have to read them all.  If you have a minute, skim what’s there, but don’t worry about the rest.  Twitter is supposed to be ephemeral.

If you aren’t on Twitter and want to get started here are a few links to help: Newbies guide to Twitter from cnet.com, Twitter 101 from twitter.com, Twitter tutorial

On last (but incredibly important) thought. Using Twitter (or any social media) is different if you are in medicine. Every company has guidelines about using social media.  In medicina, we have a standard for how we can discuss what we do that is different than the rest of society.   Here’s some rules that will keep you safe.

  • Do not (ever) discuss a patient, post a picture of a patient or put anything online that could identify a patient.  This is the law (HIPAA) and it is our ethical and professional obligation.
  • Do not give medical advice via social media.  If you are contacted by a patient that you are really worried about, the only thing you can do is tell them which office/hospital to go to or where to call.
  • Do not put negative comments about a colleague or institution on social media.  If you need to ventilate, find a friend and go out somewhere.  Think of social media as the “microphone in the elevator”.  Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want someone in the future to “overhear”.  Digital = permanent.

One of the best guides on the use of social media in medicine comes from Austrialia and New Zealand.  It has some very illustrative scenarios and is beautifully (and succinctly) written.  If you are in medicine and using social media, it’s well worth the time to read this document.

Can Facebook Hurt Your Career?

There have been a lot of recent posts on the web about social media use by physicians.  It’s very, very important to think about the ethics and the risk of using Facebook, Twitter, etc if you are a physician or a physician in training. The internet lives forever… things you post now may come back years from now when you are applying for a job.   I’ve posted previously about using Facebook and other social media, but there are other, more comprehensive summaries on the web.  Take a minute and read about some of the horror stories – it may protect you!

Link on shockmd.com to a video and pdf from the Austrailian AMA

Guidelines on using social media from the American Medical Association

Facebook and Other Social Media

Social media, like Facebook, is an important way to keep in touch with friends and not feel so isolated when you are in medical school and your residency.   It’s a wonderful tool, but it can backfire if you don’t realize some of the pitfalls.  

Unlike high school and college, once you are in medical school, you are part of a profession.  (Yup, from the moment you start).  So there are a few important rules you need to know about using Facebook or any social media network.

1.  Never friend patients or their families.  This is an important rule to follow.  Even if they are the nicest people in the world just make up your mind now that the answer is “never.”   Once you are in practice, you may choose to use social media by developing a page for people to “like”… but don’t do it while you are in training!

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/361/7/649

2.  Beware changing privacy rules.  Facebook in particular is notorious for changing who can see what.  You need to check – often.   Everything on your Facebook page should be “friend only” .  Here is a great site that explains all of this.. but keep checking – the settings are changed frequently!!!

http://www.allfacebook.com/2009/02/facebook-privacy/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/05/facebook-flaw-exposes-you_n_564126.html

3. Make sure you know what other people can find out about you on the Web.  Residency programs routinely use searach engines to screen for “red flags” in applicants.  This is even more true once you finish residency and are looking for a job.   So, periodically, do a search on yourself.  You’ll need to make sure there is no misinformation out there and do whatever it takes to get it corrected.

http://www.studentdoctor.net/2008/11/the-successful-match-social-networking-sites-a-new-way-to-screen-residency-applicants/

4.  Never post unprofessional photos or comments. You are not in college anymore.  Think about what you have on Facebook now (and what you will put on in the future).  Is there anything you wouldn’t want the Dean of Students or your Program Director to see?  Do you really want people to see the disparaging comment you made about a professor or attending?  Take it off.  It’s not professional. 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25819129/

5.  Never put ANY patient information on Facebook.  Part of being a professional is knowing the rules.  Patient confidentiality is protected by law… and by the ethics of medicine.  Never, never, never  (in case it wasn’t clear – that means NEVER) put ANY information about a patient on Facebook or any social media…

http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-311690