Social media fears doctors face

It took me most of 2010 to weight up the pros and cons of starting a blog.

I already have a busy, well-established rheumatology practice and our clinic has grown steadily through word-of-mouth. There’s also always enough jobs on the to-do list without adding another regular task. Is it worth the risk? What is the risk?

In my first blog, I’ve tried to explain why I ended up agreeing to do this. I now want to tell you about the 4 major fears I had to face and continue to face, as I sit at my laptop, typing these words.

Fear 1: Exposing myself to the public

I like to keep a reasonably low profile. There were no photos of me (that I’m aware of!) circulating on the internet for the general public, until now. I’ve been a hard worker and an achiever, rather than someone who has rushed to be a public thought leader.

Fear 2: What if people don’t find what I write interesting or useful?

My ego would be bruised.

Fear 3: What if someone makes negative comments?

I will have little control over what people say about my posts or about me. What if a disgruntled patient decided to take it out on me publicly? I hope this never happens but I suppose I could defend myself if the criticism was unfair, or actually apologise and make amends.

This fear could also provide me even greater incentive to provide exceptional care so that the probability of a disgruntled patient becomes exceedingly low.

Fear 4: What would my medical colleagues think?

The profession of medicine is in general, conservative. Australian Rheumatologists, in a sweeping generalization, would not be considered the most progressive or the most receptive to change.

I suspect that our blog, will raise at least a few eyebrows, amongst the “establishment”.

Prior to starting the blog, I subscribed to other blogs to see what others do. I came across Dr Bryan Vartabedian, who writes about the convergence of social media and medicine in 33 Charts.

Last night, I steeled myself and wrote my very first comment to a blog. I commented on his blog about physician online reputation management, expressing part of the fear I have just written about. To my surprise, I featured, in his next blog! This was social media in action, and it was quite gratifying.

I’m a newbie to this stuff. Many of you reading now are in the same boat. My first week of blogging has been surprisingly enjoyable.

Some of you reading are doctors or allied health professionals. What are your own concerns about using social media? You may find it quite liberating.

Some of you reading are patients. Do you think doctors, and other allied health professionals should be using a blog, Twitter or Facebook to connect with you? And what would be the benefit to you, if any. Please share this with us.

Irwin Lim is a rheumatologist in Australia who blogs at BJC Health Connected Care.

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