Social Media for Family Physicians
Social media channels enable anyone with access to the Internet to disseminate news, information, or opinions, making everyone a publisher in a sense. Content shared via social media may reach one person or may reach millions of people, depending on the social media platform, the message, and the audience. But now, with more than 90 percent of online adults using social media regularly, these media can be extremely influential.
Why social media for physicians?
Social media channels benefit physicians both as sources of content and as platforms for the dissemination of content:
- Many physicians have turned to social media to help them keep up with new information they need to know to provide quality care. One recent study found that more than 70 percent of primary care physicians and oncologists use social media at least once a month to explore or contribute health information. Social media can help physicians stay up to date on news that may affect their patients or prompt patient questions.
- Social media can enhance professional networking efforts.
- Social media tools such as blogs, social network sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), and video sites (Youtube, Vimeo and Vine) give physicians a platform to express their views on health care-related topics, share general clinical or practice information (e.g., flu shot availability), and educate their patients and their community at large.
The last two of these uses require more time commitment and involve more personal exposure than the others. Consequently, these guidelines will deal most with these areas, especially the last.
While the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that physicians explore the use of social media, you must decide whether you want to go beyond exploration, basing your decision on your own circumstances and the value you find in social media for yourself, your patients, and your community. If you decide to become active in social media— especially if you are interested in disseminating information and opinions— these guidelines are for you.