|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 103-104
Physicians and the social media
Professor of Family Medicine & Tropical Child Health, College of Medicine, University of Dammam, Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Editor-in-Chief, Saudi Journal of Medicine and Medical Sciences
|Date of Web Publication||6-May-2015|
|How to cite this article:|
Bella H. Physicians and the social media. Saudi J Med Med Sci 2015;3:103-4
In the era of digital communications, online health and e-patient movements, doctors cannot and should not ignore the social media. One author's question is this: "If the social media and blogs in the US reach 80% of active internet users, why aren't physicians taking advantage of that opportunity to reach their patients where they are?"  Here are some more informative statistics on social media:
- In the US, more than 90% of online adults use the social media regularly. 
- 80% of internet users (59% of US adults) look for online health information, and 90% of patients consider online review sites such as health grades. 
- According to the Source and Interaction Study, 64% of physicians use at least one type of the social network. 
The review article in this issue of the Journal, discusses different uses of the social media. It also addresses risks and benefits of the media. However, a lot can be said about the many issues on social media in health and medicine.
The Social media present a double-edged sword. Despite their merits, there are concerns about their use. One of the reasons why some doctors do not use social media is that "most of the least credible health information that patients present at appointments come from social media." Some doctors say they do not have enough time to care for their patients let alone get involved in the social media. Most of their time on the internet is spent at professional websites, and in reading medical journals. 
Another concern about the social media in medicine is the difficulty of sifting professional from personal inputs. Researchers call for consistent standards of professional interactions between patients and physicians, and for the preservation of patient's privacy and confidentiality. It has been reported that doctors have lost malpractice suits, their jobs, and their licenses for posting controversial material or information that violated patient's privacy online.  A recent survey of State Medical Boards showed that 92% of respondents reported at least one online violation of professionalism that led to a major action such as license revocation. 
To address concerns on the use of social media in medicine, some academic institutions have formulated rules and policies for doctors. The American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards together published a paper on how doctors should behave in the social media.  The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted guidelines for physicians' use of the social media to protect patient privacy, as well as physicians' personal and professional reputation. A summary of these is stated in a communication. 
Collaborative MedHelp brought together medical experts from reputable institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic and Cornell University in "Ask-a-Doctor" forums and discussion groups in the social media.  The Mayo Clinic launched its Center for Social Media after many hospitals and physicians turned to them for advice on the use of the social media. 
There is consensus that medicine should not be practiced via social media for individual medical care. The fact still remains, however, that the social media facilitate communication with a large population. Rather than simply manage patients, this could foster the promotion of health and education in the society. If used rationally, social media does improve patient empowerment and autonomy resulting in better doctor/patient relationship. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that "social media initiatives that help patients, physicians and the research community will potentially drive down healthcare-related costs and ultimately improve the quality of care." 
With an increase in the use of the social media, more benefits, challenges and liability concerns are inevitable.
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