Blog | Friday, September 24, 2010

Doctors and social anonymity

I don't think doctors should be socially anonymous. We need to be seen. Here's why going underground isn't good policy for physicians:

Anonymity makes you say stupid things. When you're shouting from the crowd it's easy to talk smack. Come up to the podium, clear your throat, and say something intelligent. You're a physician, not a hooligan.

It's 2010: Anonymity died a long time ago. You think anonymity offers shelter? You're funny, you are. Anonymity is a myth. You can create a cockamamie pseudonym, but you can't hide. And if I don't find you, the plaintiff attorneys will. They found Flea.

Being a weanie is no excuse. Just as you're unlikely to consult a lawyer before speaking at a cocktail party, commenting as Dr. You is unlikely to kill you or land you in court. Just a few pointers: Don't talk about patients, help people out, and be nice. Trust me, I'm a doctor.

We need you, darn it. There are, like, 12 doctors in the free world with regular blogs. And all the rest are either working or peeking from under their desks hopin' this social stuff all goes the way of the hula hoop. If we all just spoke up, we could change the world. As for me, I'm typing as fast as I can and I'm tired of doing it alone.

Anonymity soils credibility. We need to be out there helping to keep check on the nonsense circulating in the infosphere. I think it was Dr. Val Jones who once said that "the Internet needs lifeguards." Of course patients can swim. No one needs to be rescued, but there's nothing wrong with a few strategically placed lifeguards to blow the whistle every now and again (mind you, these aren't paternalistic lifeguards, but lifeguards seeking a partnership with empowered, engaged swimmers.)

"I'm not a doctor, but I play one on the Internet." In the end, no one trusts a lifeguard in a ski mask. Unless we know who you are, you don't count. If you're anonymous, I have to assume you're actually a disgruntled medical assistant with an axe to grind. Show your face and create a digital footprint that we can all see. Look at me. Look at my blog. Crosscheck me with Texas Children's Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, the quarter-million other ventures I've been engaged with. I'm real. Those links are real.

Go and be real so that your voice can be credible. What am I missing here?

This post by Bryan Vartabedian appeared at Get Better Health, a network of popular health bloggers brought together by Val Jones, MD. Better Health's mission is to support and promote health care professional bloggers, provide insightful and trustworthy health commentary, and help to inform health policy makers about the provider point of view on health care reform, science, research and patient care.