A moral obligation to help patients decipher online health information

I believe that the most important reason for healthcare professionals to engage in social media is to take advantage of its tremendous inherent ability to help facilitate in providing all patients with trusted, accurate, meaningful and useable healthcare information.

Most healthcare practice consultants and social media experts more often than not highlight the beneficial effects that the use of social media can have on the marketing efforts of healthcare practices, individual providers and businesses.

They refer to social media marketing plans, campaigns, budgets and the like.  It does not surprise me that these folks, who are mostly non-healthcare providers themselves, seem to miss the actual bullseye regarding what I feel to be the main benefit to the use of social media by healthcare professionals.  Although one of the ultimate results may well be the same, more patients in the door and a healthier bottom line, I believe the mission and route taken is distinctly different.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Howard Luks, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery at New York Medical College, who feels that as physicians we have a moral obligation to help all patients decipher the incredible amount of commercialized, frequently wrong and sometimes harmful healthcare related information accessible to them online.  Who better than us, physicians, to take this responsibility on?

How many patients a healthcare professional has, how busy and well off financially they are, has always been primarily determined by the quality of care and service they were perceived by patients to provide.  It is no different now.  Helping patients decipher the overwhelming amount of healthcare related information online provides concerned healthcare professionals with yet another way to differentiate themselves.

Provide patients with trusted, non-biased, accurate, useful healthcare related information online via social media channels and they will come.  You will provide a service that is definitely needed, more in line with our higher calling and at the same time, or as a by-product, accomplish what your financial practice consultant strongly suggests you must do.

Richard A. Foullon is a family physician.


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