Once upon a time doctors and lawyers were portrayed as the digital Luddites of society. Maybe there was a lag of early adoption especially when compared to the tech early-adopters. Not so much anymore. Now there seems to be a critical mass of doctors online and a steady pace of innovation where a subset are trying the next new thing. I have lost hope that my doctor will jump on board. He comes from another time. Increasingly, I think of changing doctors not just to rid myself of his complete lack of interest but to sign on with a doctor looking for every advantage for patients and his business via digital innovation.
Physician 2.0: Doctors of Innovation
Pauline Chen MD had a great article in the NYTimes where she summed up her own use of social media benefits as:
"Social media has kept me connected with colleagues and a few former patients, allowed me to stay up-to-date with certain health care and medical education issues, and helped me to keep abreast of Web-based resources that might be useful to those I care for. It has also taught me a tremendous amount about the experiences of patients and caregivers, information I’m not sure I would have had access to had I not been engaged online."
Doctors in the US are online - period. And they are increasingly "social."
According to Bunny Ellerin at Interbrand Health: "Manhattan Research found that 99 percent of doctors are online daily, 85 percent maintain broadband in their offices, and 83 percent consider the Internet essential to their practice."
According to aseparate report from Manhattan Research, doctors are embracing three social media related behaviors (beyond Search): consuming video, blogging and podcasting. What's interesting is that the content creator core - that small percentage of doctors who blog - are not the young doctors you would expect.
"Perhaps even more interesting is the profile of the segment of physicians authoring blogs oday–these are younger, savvier, online physicians, right? Wrong. Those with a voice online tend to be older with more professional experience– essentially representing the true “physician blogger” with something to say–while the younger audience may be more likely to listen and then perhaps join in the resulting conversation later."
Increasingly physicians are joining physician-specific social networks like Sermo, Ozmosis or Social MD or even NING. And its not the same blogging doc who's joining according to the Manhattan Research report,
"Contrary to the population of physicians posting professional content online, thisgroup tends to be slightly younger than the average physician today. Another interesting finding is that female physicians are significantly more likely than their male counterparts to engage in online communities with other physicians. Also, physicians in the West seem more apt to engage in conversation and community online than their peers in the Northeast. Finally, physicians based in academic medical centers are significantly more likely to participate in online communities with physicians–perhaps viewing the online channel as simply an extension of their peer-to-peer communication with their colleagues in the halls and corridors. And it’s not just online community that piques their interest–almost all physicians participating in online communities report they regularly exchange email with other physicians."
Like other forms of social media that came before, doctors are adopting Twitter and experimenting how to use it in their daily practice. For bloggers, it becomes a way to announce longer content on their blogs. For all, it's a way to recommend relevant links. Check out the Yahoo pipes that bundles the "doctors on Twitter" into a single feed - I have published at the bottom of this page. .
Pauline Chen MD had spoke in her article in the NYTimes about a particularly poignant case with a patient who may have benefited from the more "always-on" relationship possible via social media platforms to get the support to maintain their regimine. I found it interesting that most of Pauline's references to social media-active physicians were Twitter handles (vs. blog urls).
She seems open to trying anything that might help her practice and is able to connect the dots to patient experinces that might have been enhanced if only the old way could be improved:
"Social media platforms can turn 10- or 20-minute doctor’s visits into an ongoing dialogue, where sources of information and, potentially, support are continually available to the patient and the doctor. “Platforms like Twitter can be powerful if doctors are a lot more active in disseminating their expertise,” Dr. Khozin said. “Patients are being bombarded with information online, but I don’t think all that information necessarily empowers them. You also need expertise.” "
What's the next innovation even as more doctors adopt social networks, Tiwtter and other social media conventions?