How Twitter can strengthen the doctor-patient relationship

Pauline Chen goes social media on us in a recent column.

Focusing on Twitter, she recalls a patient with Buerger’s disease who tried to quit smoking. Unfortunately, the patient wasn’t successful, and had to have multiple amputations.

Dr. Chen wonders if like Twitter, blogs or Facebook had existed back then, would the patient “have felt a little less isolated and perhaps been able to quit smoking if [she] texted a word of encouragement to him every few days, interacted through blog comments, or directed him to an online community of people who were dealing with the exact same disease?”

Despite the growth of social media and its role in facilitating patient empowerment, the health system doesn’t allow doctors to fully partake in its benefits, as, “taking on the responsibilities of yet another form of communication can also be onerous for physicians, many of whom already feel overburdened by multiple demands on their time.”

Indeed, the system needs to change first, before doctors can fully embrace Twitter, and the like. Many doctors aren’t even e-mailing patients, a technology that is more than a decade old. How can they expected to make the jump to Twitter, something that, sadly, many physicians haven’t even heard of?