Blog | Thursday, November 13, 2014

For doctors who blog, a 5-letter mnemonic and a top 10 list about professionalism

Physicians who blog spoke about their experiences at Kidney Week in Philadelphia, so it feels very “meta” to blog about the bloggers: Bryan S. Vartabedian (AKA Doctor_V), MD; Margaret S. Chisolm, MD; and Joel Topf, MD, (AKA Kidney_Boy). Each touched on professionalism in the age of social media.

(The American Society of Nephrology has adopted social media, specifically, Twitter, Dr. Topf explained, using the Twitter hashtag #Kidneywk14. Signs throughout the conference center encouraged attendees to participate. The panel also included a patient blogger, Sarah E. Kucharski, who separately discussed how doctors can use social media to communicate with patients.)

The 3 doctors each emphasized aspects of professionalism that are worth reviewing for those who are already extending their reputations online. And, Dr. Vartabedian said, physicians' professional reputations are already on the Internet. Patients expect to find information about their physicians online, and may be put off if they can't.

Dr. Vartabedian told the audience that physicians can maintain their reputations first by creating content, and then joining the conversation about that content.

Dr. Chisolm encouraged professionalism from physicians who use social media. Any mistake quickly becomes public, cannot be erased or truly kept private, and can quickly become amplified as it is reposted.

Dr. Topf recalled a case of a physician who thought that he could anonymously post everyday grumblings about patients on Twitter. But, during a malpractice case, the opposing lawyer asked him about a specific tweet, and asked point blank if that “anonymous” doctor was behind it. The physician had to settle the next day.

Before blogging, Dr. Chisolm encouraged physicians to THINK. Specifically, is the post:


If you're posting about a patient, it's OK. She compared it to a case study. But, she encouraged the physician to get the patient's permission, preferably in writing. An audience member recounted his own experiences asking patients for permission. First, he said he writes the post. Then he shows it to the patient and asks permission to post it. “I'm always terrified before I ask, and they are always flattered,” he recounted.

10 rules for professionalism, as related by Dr. Chisolm:
1) Manage your online image proactively,
2) Your personal and professional identities can't always be separated,
3) Engage with the public, but be careful about giving advice,
4) Respect the privacy of all patients,
5) Show your human side (talk about sports, hobbies and the like) but maintain professional boundries,
6) Contribute expertise, insights and experiences, which are for physicians, the meat of the social media experience,
7) Treat others with respect
8) Remember that others may be watching you,
9) Support colleagues, and intervene when necessary, particularly for learners, and
10) Test out new ideas, learn from mistakes, and have fun.