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Friday Apr 19, 2013

They're Your Comments; Make Them Count

Since AAFP News Now opened its stories to member comments in 2010, we've heard from you more than 3,000 times. Through the comments field, Academy leaders and staff have been able to answer numerous member questions, clarify issues and provide additional information from our in-house experts.

We've also been able to correct broken links and other errors that members have brought to our attention.

Since we launched the AAFP Leader Voices Blog in 2011, family physicians have been able to communicate directly with Academy Board members, who have answered questions related to advocacy, education and clinical issues.

Academy staff and leaders also have responded to member questions and comments on Facebook.

Overall, it's a system that has worked pretty well, and the discourse, although sometimes spirited, has been overwhelmingly professional in nature.

But, on occasion, comments can get out of hand. Although we have had many interesting, helpful dialogues between members, members and leaders, and members and staff through comment fields, we also have had a few members resort to personal attacks.


And, there have been a few instances of inappropriate language.

Disagreement is fine. We created the comment fields to encourage and improve communication, but let's remember that we all share a common goal of delivering the best care for patients that we possibly can and steer away from anything that gets in the way of that goal.

It's also worth keeping in mind that our news stories, blogs and social media content are open to the public and anyone -- patients, other health care professionals and members of the media -- can and do read that content.

The issues we discuss in these venues are important to the health of our nation and deserve level-headed discourse. Negative, hostile comments have a polarizing effect. Researchers published findings(johnhawks.net) earlier this year that showed that readers who were exposed to antagonizing comments were more likely to dig in their heels on an issue than commenters who read the same story or blog without the accompanying name-calling.

In other words, readers faced with an online fight aren't open to new ideas or the other side of a discussion. Ugly arguments actually reinforce readers' preconceived ideas -- right or wrong -- on a given topic.

Name-calling can disrupt constructive dialogues, and that's not what we want. We family physicians need to be able to discuss important topics, including payment issues, health care reform and gun laws, with the understanding -- indeed, the expectation -- that our diverse, 100,000-plus members won't all agree. Some topics are divisive, but we can't afford to allow them to divide us.

We're here. We're listening. We want to hear from you. And we hope you'll continue the conversation with your colleagues. How will you make your comments count?

Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I.is the Board Chair of the AAFP.

Posted at 12:37PM Apr 19, 2013 by Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I.

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