Do doctors who use social media prescribe more medications?

Doctors are increasingly using social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Sermo.

A recent study showed that 60 percent of doctors use, or are about to use, various Web 2.0 applications. That’s no surprise.

The unexpected finding was that physicians who reported they used social media prescribed 24 more medications each week when compared to their peers who reported that they did not.

So that begs the question, does social media cause doctors to write more prescriptions?

The answer is unknown, as this was hardly a rigorous scientific study. Social media expert Jonathan Richman doubts it, and says that demographics can explain the result.

“The likely real answer is that doctors who use social networks have bigger practices and thus write more prescriptions,” opines Mr. Richman. “Social networking didn’t cause this, but rather is just another demographic point. It could be that older doctors, who practices are also smaller, don’t use social networking and this accounts for the difference.”

But this result may pique the curiosity of the pharmaceutical industry, who may make more aggressive overtures to have more of a visible presence on physician-only social networking sites like Sermo and Medscape’s Physician Connect.

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