Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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The world needs more doctors like this

apple stethescopeI love my job because every day I must browse through all kinds of news and information from a variety of sources. Mostly it’s to stay up to date on hot topics in health and technology. The health side is for posting things on social media for work. The technology is so I can try to stay on top of my game. As I was going through emails and news items recently, I came across a headline I found intriguing. I had no idea it would lead to this blog post.

I’ve been in healthcare communications for over 25 years. In that time, I’ve met more doctors than I can count. Doctors are just like ordinary people, because, well, they ARE people. They all have their own personality traits. Some are more approachable than others. Some are a bit less humble. Some are always right and should never be questioned. Like I said, just like ordinary people.

And then there are the doctors who learn a lesson that makes them into an even better doctor. I was introduced to Dr. Peter Attia thanks to the headline, “Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?” I’ve decided the world needs more doctors like him.

The video from a Ted Talk is a little long, but so worth watching. In it, Attia talks about how he held a patient in “such bitter contempt” because she was overweight and diabetic. He never “questioned the conventional wisdom,” as he explains. Years later the tables turned. Suddenly he was the patient, suffering from metabolic syndrome, despite eating right and exercising.

That experience led him to rethink everything he had been taught and believed in as that conventional wisdom and the science behind nutrition, exercise and obesity. Now, he’s fighting all that conventional wisdom about obesity. He believes it may actually be the symptom of a bigger problem that is not apparent at first glance. That’s especially true when a doctor attributes obesity to being the patient’s own fault, as he once did.  It has all led him to new research on obesity and diabetes, and I just sense it will prove to be a major finding and turn the medical field upside down at some point soon.

What got to me most of all, though, is how emotional he got when discussing that night and that patient so many years ago. He’s incredibly remorseful because he feels that patient did not get the compassion she so deserved — that same compassion he showed other patients.

I can think of some doctors who could use a little lesson in humility, and compassion. It might make them better doctors, and better people too.


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Physicians are not your (Facebook) friends

Doctors on Facebook -- is it a good idea? (photo by j.reed)

When you’re sick, hopefully the first person you call is your physician. In that sense, he or she IS your friend. But unless you’ve got a standing relationship with your physician outside the exam room, that’s where the “friendship” should end.

But in today’s socially connected world, physicians who are on Facebook with personal accounts may find themselves receiving “friend” requests from patients. While there are policies in the works from several agencies like the American Medical Association, nothing has yet to be formalized. While there are several sources for guiding physicians, like this article from FiercePracticeManagement, many physicians are still left in a quandary. As a result, several of our physicians have asked us what they should do. We worked with our legal department to develop some guidelines for our doctors to consider if and when they receive these request

Although this goes against the social media “be social!” mantra, first and foremost, we have recommended that they not accept the friend request, based on a few simple facts. The first is obvious: physicians must maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times, and while that’s easy to do in a hospital or office setting, the lines can become a bit blurred when it comes to the world of Facebook. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a patient to initiate a conversation on a Facebook wall that could cross the line, thereby eroding the boundaries of the physician-patient relationship, and possibly even threatening ethical standards because of the casual nature of communication on the social network.

We also have asked physicians to keep in mind that accepting friend requests from patients will allow those patients to see personal information and have a glimpse into the private lives of the physicians. Unless the privacy settings are tweaked carefully, patients who are now Facebook friends would be privy to the doctor’s conversations with friends, or see the photos of dinner and cocktails last weekend. It could change the professional image and reputation of a physician if a patient can see into the private and/or social life of a physician.

I recognize that this may go against the grain, but we felt it was in our physicians’ best interests to keep their personal and professional lives separate. On the other hand, if they were to establish a Facebook account for their practice, I believe that would involve a totally different set of guidelines.

I’m very interested to hear how other hospital marketers and social media managers are advising their physicians. Share your thoughts!

This post was written for an originally appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.