By Dr. Naveen Pemmaraju, MD, MD Anderson Cancer Center
“The forum of social media is for information that is meant to be a general outline, not personalized therapy for an individual.”
For physicians who are balancing a heavy workload, how do you view the role of social media?
I think at least a working knowledge of social media usage is essential in today’s modern era of information. I know many hematologists and other physicians who get a good chunk of information for the day from social media such as Twitter, including myself. In five minutes, one can quickly glean important items for the day in the hematology/oncology-specific areas of interest. These posts can be “liked,” saving it for later reference when more time permits, serving as a personal bookmarking tool. Dr. Mike Thompson, my own Twitter mentor, published two really nice primers on this exact topic, and they provide a nice guide to getting yourself involved:
Twitter 101 and beyond: introduction to social media platforms available to practicing hematologist/oncologists.
Social Media and the Practicing Hematologist: Twitter 101 for the Busy Healthcare Provider.
What are your thoughts on the use of social media for patients? Pros and Cons?
We live in an era of readily accessible information. Overall, this is a wonderful thing for our patients and providers alike. With this, it means we have information readily available, 24-7 at our fingertips. This includes online formats in the newer platforms such as social media.
For patients the pros include the ability to see up-to-the-minute information and announcements from key opinion leaders and professionals in the MPN field via twitter using #MPNSM (this is a grassroots twitter community started by me along with other academic investigator); the access to online support groups such as on facebook for interaction, support, group discussions, information, comfort, and caregiver help; the ability to contribute one’s own valuable experiences to the public using blogs, websites, private facebook groups. (go to MPN Advocacy’s twitter page)
On the con side, one must understand that what you post comes great responsibility. Myself and others have written in the medical literature about the potential pitfalls and unknowns in this space. As with any form of media, we all need to be very careful and mindful of what we post (all is archived!), and that we treat others with the utmost respect. We must always remember to obey HIPAA and other privacy rules /laws. One must be vigilant about misinformation and be ready to identify and report spam, and any incorrect postings.
There are many different ways a person can participate on social media, from using it to gather news, information and opinions, to re-tweeting posts (twitter) or sharing (fb) items that resonate with an individual. Ultimately, one must be comfortable enough to post original content. Take your time, follow others on topics you care about, and assess and re-assess what sources are providing you with relevant, helpful information.
How do you and should you advise others on what they post on social media?
One rule I try to follow and advise others to follow is to remember to keep things accurate and keep things general. What I mean by this is always strive to give authentic, truthful accounts – whether it is about your impressions from a meeting, detailed scientific analysis, or experiences. Remember, all items on social media are archived-they are forever. Refrain from giving specific medical advice for specific situations. Instead, direct patients to make a formal appointment.
Dr. Pemmaraju has been a pioneer in the early stages of developing social media and its interface with hematology/oncology. We are pleased to have him offer his insights on the use of social media for both patients and medical professionals.
Dr. Pemmaraju will be joining us at the MPN Patient/Caregiver Program in Cleveland, learn more.