Blog | Friday, January 4, 2013

QD: News Every Day--Doctors use social media to keep up with the deluge of new information

Doctors are using social media to stay current in medical information, a survey found.

The survey was distributed via email to a random sample of nearly 1,700 oncologists and primary care physicians, with a response rate of nearly 29%. It asked about use of open social media such as Facebook and Twitter, use of wikis, use of blogs, as well as closed online communities such as Sermo.

Results appeared at the Journal of Medical Internet Research

Nearly one in four respondents used social media once or more a day to scan or explore medical information, whereas nearly one in eight contributed new information via social media on a daily basis. On a weekly basis or more, six in 10 scanned social media and less than half contributed.

Well over half (57.5%) perceived social media to be beneficial, engaging, and a good way to get current, high-quality information, and about the same percentage said that social media helped them to care for patients more effectively. Again, six of 10 said it improved the quality of patient care they delivered.

More physicians are using social media now than was reported in the survey, which was done in 2011, says Robert S. Miller, MD, FACP, an assistant professor of oncology and oncology medical information officer at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Miller said in a press release that the amount of information required for medical practice is growing exponentially, he says, and social media provides "a very valid construct for physicians to keep current."

He continued, "What did surprise us was the heavy use of online physician-only communities. It's possible that many physicians feel more comfortable with that type of social media instead of a more public space like Twitter or Facebook."

Another study co-author, Bryan Vartabedian, MD, wrote on his personal blog "33 charts" that open social media sources are valid, too. He continued, "But there are 50 ways to use something like Twitter to make your world, or the world of those around you, a better place. YouTube's potential application in health care is limited only by the imagination. While no one has to use any of these tools, believing that Twitter is only a place to share what you're eating for breakfast is to live with your head in the sand."

ACP Internist maintains a list of more than 250 members of the American College of Physicians who are on Twitter.