In late fall of 2011, I was tired of medicine. While seeing patients was still enjoyable, I felt underappreciated 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kathy Nieder is a family physician who blogs at Family Practice 2.0.