Study: Docs increasingly using social media to share medical info

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Research published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research finds a growing number of physicians using social media to share medical information and stay up to date. American Medical News previously noted YouTube being used in that way, with physicians using videos to present research papers or talks from professional meetings.

In the JMIR survey of 485 practicing oncologists and primary care physicians, 24.1 percent used social media daily or many times daily to scan or explore medical information, while 61 percent did so weekly. Just 14.2 percent contributed new information daily, though 46 percent added material weekly.

The researchers had expected those who view social media positively to be more engaged with it. They found 57.5 percent of respondents considered social media to be beneficial, engaging, and a good way to get current, high-quality information. Roughly the same percentage said that social media has helped them to care for patients more effectively, while 60 percent said it improved the quality of patient care they delivered. Not surprisingly, ease of use and usefulness were the determining factors in doctors' use of social media for sharing information among peers.

With colleagues pointing them toward relevant research and other information, social media can effectively be part of physicians' continuing professional development, the authors said.

Wendy Sue Swanson, an Everett, Wash.-based pediatrician and avid social media supporter, has on several occasions talked about social media as an effective way to share credible health information with patients. Other doctors use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to engage with patients and market themselves.

Though the debate rages on about the appropriate use of social media by physicians, one bit of advice that could help busy docs is to organize incoming information into customized groups or themes. "Perhaps the most useful is the list I've titled 'essentials,' wrote physician blogger Mark Ryan in a post on KevinMD.com. "When I have only a short window of time, I can skim the essentials list and get high quality information in short order."

To learn more:
- read the research

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