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Surgeons Should Take Advantage of Social Media

Published August 11, 2011

Online health forums, Facebook and Twitter offer surgeons cost-effective and efficient means to share information with their patients, according to Philip L. Glick, MD, University at Buffalo professor and vice chair of surgery, and Sani Z. Yamout, MD, a UB pediatric surgery fellow.

Virtual Forums Shed Light on Patient Concerns

Yamout, Glick and three coauthors wrote “Using Social Media to Enhange Surgeon and Patient Education and Comunication,” which was published in the July edition of the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons (ACS).

In the article, they note that while the public increasingly turns to the Internet for medical information and advice, surgeons are not keeping pace: According to ACS research, only one-third access online health forums and fewer contribute.

Glick and his coauthors suggest that surgeons have an opportunity, and even a non-legal responsibility, to participate in these conversations, which are frequently dominated by lay people and inaccurate information.

Even monitoring what patients say to each other can provide valuable insight into their concerns, desires and expectations.

Creating an Online Peer Review Community

Participatory social media offer surgeons powerful new ways to establish and use professional connections as well. Rural surgeons, for example, can network with peers who face similar health care challenges across the country or internationally. Residents can collect and share information relevant to their level of training, and faculty can create an informal peer review community.

The article also addresses issues such as protecting patient information, liability exposure, the persistence of materials posted online and responding to MD ratings sites.

“The infrastructure is there,” the authors conclude. “Surgeons just need to learn to use it.”

The paper summarizes a panel Glick chaired at the ACS’ 96th annual Clinical Congress in 2010.