Let’s start a grassroots physician social media movement

It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

No where is this more apparent than working to get physicians to understand the potential of social media for their practice.  The adoption of social media by doctors — even something as relatively simple as Twitter, is tough.

Face it:  Thinking that a re-tweeting of how much we want more doctors on Twitter by next year is just preaching to the social media choir.  After all, those on social media are already supporters.  How do we get physicians who are not on social media to understand its potential value to them?

This is not a simple undertaking.  Doctors are being forced to spend more computer screen time than they ever wanted to thanks to the mandatory documentation requirements of electronic medical records.  What physician also wants to spend even more time glued to a computer screen — or cell phone — texting little tidbits to Twitter, posting pictures to Facebook, or browsing Pinterest photos?


For doctors to accept social media, they have to understand its value to them.  There’s only one way I know to do that: demonstrate it to them.

Those of us who are believers have to show them a well-organized RSS feed reader containing journal articles and news reports they’re want to say up up to date with and likely read.  We have to show them how to use social media to collaborate (in near real-time) with colleagues to write an article or crowd-source a talk.  We need to show them the contacts — many who they’d recognize — you’ve made around the globe.  Show them how they can lurk and get the information they need without having to expose themselves to any potential legal issues.  We should show new graduating residents and fellows how they can stay in touch with their professors so they can continue to tap their network for answers to difficult clinical questions and get a rapid response.

And if all else fails: we must show them how they can stay in touch with their kids once they leave their homes.

Then, slowly, one-by-one, a grassroots physician social media movement can begin.  Otherwise, we’ll just be preaching to our same old physician social media circle.

Wes Fisher is a cardiologist who blogs at Dr. Wes.

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  • guest

    If someone can explain to me how anyone could present a “difficult clinical question” in 140 characters, I would be interested to hear more about that…

    • http://blog.wcgworld.com/author/gmatthewswcgworld-com Greg Matthews

      Not likely that Twitter is the right platform for that … unless it was to link to a journal article (or even the curriculum page) that addresses the “difficult clinical question”. This isn’t hard as it sounds … and it’s much different than an email, because you’re opening the conversation to the whole world. Using the right hashtag can get content in front of people you’d never imagined. Check out the Twitter Journal Club (#TwitJC) or Free Open Access Medical Education (#FOAMed) as examples of exactly how this happens, with real doctors and medical students, today.

  • doc99

    You could try splitting up the tweets, numbering each in sequence, using a #hashtag to represent the subject

    • guest

      Oh, for God’s sake. How is that better than sending out an email??

  • http://blog.wcgworld.com/author/gmatthewswcgworld-com Greg Matthews

    For anyone who’s interested, I thought that Dr. Fisher had a great idea in terms of sharing a curated set of RSS feeds from real doctor blogs. Since I’m a big fan of the Feedly reader, I created just such a list (>60 blogs) and made it available here: http://bit.ly/KlFhCR

  • Shirie Leng, MD

    Social media seems to attract two types of WRITERS: Those who have gripes and those who have points. Problems often lead READERS to social media. This is true of subjects other than medicine as well For instance, parenting. We all think we don’t need to talk to anyone about our adorable angelic child until said child is writing with pee on the walls. Suddenly you want to see if anybody else has the same problem. People with gripes or points also make good READERS, but they tend to read things that confirm the validity of their gripe. Doctors have problems, gripes, and points in spades. They might not be writing on social media, but I bet more are reading than you think.

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