Doctors should use social media to become filters for our patients

A continuing series on physician online reputation.  Created in partnership with the Doctors Company as part of their social media resources for physicians. 

The health care landscape is evolving, such that more information is becoming transparent. Seven out of ten internet users use the web to look for health information, but sometimes the information that they’re reading online isn’t always the most reliable. Ninety percent of Wikipedia articles, for instance, have some type of medical inaccuracy. With the explosion of online health care information, the problem that we face today isn’t so much a lack of knowledge, but a lack of how to apply that knowledge. Or if you want to put it another way, we suffer from a lack of wisdom on the web.

If you talk to someone like Clay Shirky, who writes about this on friends of the internet. He said, “Don’t blame information overload, blame filter failure.” He’s absolutely right, because more information isn’t necessarily better. We need to able to filter all this information for patients, because if we just use online tools to impart knowledge without elevating wisdom, we risk overwhelming both doctors and patients with meaningless data.

In today’s transparent era, where patients have as much access to information as their doctors do, we need to redefine ourselves. We need to stop seeing ourselves as gatekeepers of medical and drug information. If we are stay relevant, we need to be curators of that information instead.

We need to become filters for our patients, and help elevate wisdom on the web.

Kevin Pho is an internal medicine physician and co-author of Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Physicians and Medical Practices. He is on the editorial board of contributors, USA Today, and is founder and editor,, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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