A moral obligation to help patients decipher online health information

I believe that the most important reason for healthcare professionals to engage in social media is to take advantage of its tremendous inherent ability to help facilitate in providing all patients with trusted, accurate, meaningful and useable healthcare information.

Most healthcare practice consultants and social media experts more often than not highlight the beneficial effects that the use of social media can have on the marketing efforts of healthcare practices, individual providers and businesses.

They refer to social media marketing plans, campaigns, budgets and the like.  It does not surprise me that these folks, who are mostly non-healthcare providers themselves, seem to miss the actual bullseye regarding what I feel to be the main benefit to the use of social media by healthcare professionals.  Although one of the ultimate results may well be the same, more patients in the door and a healthier bottom line, I believe the mission and route taken is distinctly different.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Howard Luks, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery at New York Medical College, who feels that as physicians we have a moral obligation to help all patients decipher the incredible amount of commercialized, frequently wrong and sometimes harmful healthcare related information accessible to them online.  Who better than us, physicians, to take this responsibility on?

How many patients a healthcare professional has, how busy and well off financially they are, has always been primarily determined by the quality of care and service they were perceived by patients to provide.  It is no different now.  Helping patients decipher the overwhelming amount of healthcare related information online provides concerned healthcare professionals with yet another way to differentiate themselves.

Provide patients with trusted, non-biased, accurate, useful healthcare related information online via social media channels and they will come.  You will provide a service that is definitely needed, more in line with our higher calling and at the same time, or as a by-product, accomplish what your financial practice consultant strongly suggests you must do.

Richard A. Foullon is a family physician.


Submit a guest post and be heard on social media’s leading physician voice.

Comments are moderated before they are published. Please read the comment policy.

  • http://medicaleducation.wetpaint.com/ Deirdre

    Thank you so much for saying this. I think health advocacy is such an overlooked aspect of social media use.

  • http://www.foxgrp.com Gunter Dymkova-Fuchs

    Dr. Foullon makes, of course, a mosty excellent observation. I do agree that it is part of a healthcare providers responsibility to help the patient to “see more clearly” when faced with the barrage of social (and sometimes not so social) media online. An excellent online presence program is a must!

  • http://www.patientpower.info Pat Elliott

    Well said. Too much health content is purposely fear-based to drive web traffic, or is opinion-based rather than factual. Having at minimum an understanding of the legitimate, trusted resources that support the patients seen by the practice is critical and benefits both the patient and physician.

  • http://www.direct2care.com Chris Boardman

    Great post! I think you are absolutely right.

  • http://www.medicaldump.com Nick Parisi

    I loved your post. Doctors must think more along these lines. Helping patients is not just curing their disease.

  • http://www.vhma.com Richard Foullon

    Thanks Nick. As a doctor, I feel that the most important responsibility I have to a patient is to provide them with the very best, healthcare evidence-based information pertinent to their situation that I can, so that they can make their own decision(s). A doctor should not assume the role of ‘decision maker’, but instead the role of ‘decision facilitator’. In order to meet this responsibility, we must: truly take the time to listen to what each patient has to say, provide each patient with the best evidence-based information applicable to their particular situation in terms they can clearly understand, and then make sure we answer any question(s) they may have. We should give each patient our ‘recommendation(s)’, but the ultimate decision is up to them. More often than not, the “curing” of a patient’s disease is a matter of having a good memory or knowing where to look up the best information. Always meeting the key elements of our primary responsibility as I have noted above, can be the more difficult task.

  • http://wp.me/p1BxsC-3 Peter Gubbe

    I know that the vast of amount of information for most people is overwhelming. It is impossible to determine what is accurate and what can be harmful. Evidence-based practices and principles are paramount for living a healthier life!

  • http://www.howardluksmd.com Howard Luks

    Thanks for the h/t Richard. Nice post… obviously I agree with you ! :-)

  • http://www.SeekingHealth.com Ben Lynch ND

    Excellent post and I whole-heartedly agree with you.

    Given that most people use the internet first before going to the doctor, it is our job as physician’s to get on the internet and be providers of accurate information.

    There are countless ‘medical’ websites out there that cater to only the owner of the domain name. They write poor content, cover it with advertisements and make revenue from the ads.

    The internet is full of these domain squatters who buy highly trafficked urls in the hopes of earning revenue through Google Adsense or other direct advertising.

    Meanwhile, the visitors to these high ranking websites get misinformation or no information at all.

    I am currently in the process of working with physicians showing them how to do this effectively – and explaining WHY we need to do it.

    I am thankful for KevinMD and all the guest authors here. This is truly a resource for those looking for credible opinions and the inner workings of medicine.

Most Popular