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Social Media: Promise and Pitfalls for Doctors

How can physicians most effectively use social media to advance their careers, establish thought leadership and engage patients . . . all while steering clear of HIPAA violations and personal privacy issues?

To answer that loaded question, Albert Einstein College of Medicine turned to two seasoned social media professionals and physicians—pathologist Kent Bottles, M.D., and internist Katherine Chretien, M.D.  At a professional development seminar for Einstein faculty members and those connected with our seven clinical affiliates, they discussed best practices and notable cautions.

Before a spillover crowd of 102 Einstein faculty members, Drs. Bottles and Chretien examined what could go right—and wrong—when physicians and other medical professionals engage strangers, patients and each other online.

Dr. Bottles—a fixture on Twitter who goes by the handle @kentbottles—frequently speaks and writes about social media. He told the audience that what he finds most useful about social media is the ability to tap the knowledge of others to help him research, think and write. He explained with delight how he used crowdsourcing to prepare his Einstein presentation—sending out an “SOS” to his 6,000+ highly informed Twitter followers. Within hours he had more than 30 replies with advice, resources and guidance. All this from a man who is a seasoned social media pro. His takeaway: no matter how bright you are, you’re always better informed by reaching out for help. While he cautioned against falling for social media “hype,” he explained that doctors should become familiar with social media because of these resources’ ability to engage, inform and galvanize.

Dr. Chretien, a mother of three and the founder of the Mothers in Medicine blog, goes by the Twitter handle @motherinmed. The associate professor at George Washington University sounded a more cautionary note. While still a vocal advocate of social media, she highlighted her published research, which shows that social media have gotten and can get doctors and doctors-in-training in trouble if they violate their institutions’ guidelines or HIPAA laws, or even fail to show common sense. Yet she stressed that, when used properly, social media platforms can burnish credentials and create career and learning opportunities.

During a break in the daylong summit, the co-editors of The Doctor’s Tablet had the chance to sit down and talk with each of these dynamic mavens. Watch our interviews with Drs. Bottles and Chretien here. Then tell us how you use social media to help advance your career. Any pointers? Any words of caution? We want to hear your thoughts!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elaine Gross April 6, 2012, 1:32 AM

    These interviews are very interesting and informative.

    • The Doctor's Tablet Editors April 6, 2012, 4:17 PM

      Glad you found the interviews and blog so enjoyable!

  • Donna L. Bridges April 6, 2012, 1:34 PM

    I am gratified to learn of doctors using online resources! I wish it were possible for me to do more interactive things with my doctor’s office online. But, hearing that doctors see the many of us who know more about our illnesses than a given doctor do was especially gratifying to me. It is frustrating in the extreme when one tries to offer their own experience & is shut down but just as rewarding when that info is heard & appreciated! As a Type 2 diabetic, I know that, unfortunately, many diabetics are not advocates for their own management, but so many of us are & spend time on how we allow the disease to impact our lives & our futures. One way many of us have learned to cope with our illnesses is from each other. Knowing that kind of word of mouth is not always considered suspect is encouraging. Thank you for this blog & these interviews. – Donna

    • The Doctor's Tablet Editors April 6, 2012, 4:21 PM

      Thanks for sharing your story with us, Donna. We’re glad that you found our interviews so encouraging! Hope you’ll have even more success with your physicians.

  • Valentine Flores April 10, 2012, 3:52 PM

    Really enjoyed the interview with Dr Bottles. The fact that, as a person not in the medical field, I am able to follow and understand the subject matter shows me that these interviews are good for patients as well as those in the medical field. Thanks, you did a great job.

  • Erick Kinuthia April 19, 2012, 9:15 PM

    This is quite educative. I think doctors should just find a way of mastering these HIPPA rules. It shouldn’t kill the morale in them, instead it should act as a motivation.

    Erick Kinuthia
    Team MDwebpro