In the days of social media, doctors are jumping on the bandwagon. More and more doctors are using Facebook to teach patients about diseases or using emails to communicate with their patients. Traditionally, doctors are technophobes, preferring to see patients in person or to talk to them on the phone. But increasingly, a few doctors are branching out to Twitter and the Internet, trying to reach out to patients where they live—on the web.
Doctors can educate patients with blogs. A few paragraphs every few days can get the information out around timely health issues straight from the doctor’s mouth. Doctors can use Facebook and Twitter so that they can communicate with their clients—and this can go both ways, which patient’s love.
Doctors can tweet between patients or send emails to patients on specific items. They can use larger venues like blogs and Facebook to send tips on losing weight or tips on childrearing. Anything the doctor thinks the patient needs to know can be sent out over the internet. Rather than returning phone calls at the end of the day, the doctor can quickly send off an email and communicate with their patients that way.
The doctor can, for example, read an email about how to wean babies from pacifiers and can shoot off a blog on the topic to her patient without having to explain it all over again. Even emails the patient sends in the late evening can get a quick response from their doctor. The reassurance to patients is comforting. Some doctors charge for their virtual communications; however, other doctors do it for free. It all depends on the doctor.
Some clinics are offering their own systems for making appointments, delivering messages to patients, reminders to make appointments and giving patients their labs. It’s all extremely private so only those who have the name and password can direct information to the patient or clinic.
Doctors can lead twitter chats with groups of patients on things like childrearing, cholesterol and diabetes. This can educate groups of people in ways that make them feel personalized and private. It can be challenging for doctors to simplify long answers into just 14 characters or less. Even so, it has the potential to reach a large audience and to make a difference in the lives of patients who subscribe to their doctor’s twitter page.
Doctors have to be careful about services like Facebook. They can’t share information about patients on Facebook or other social media, even if they don’t use any names. Doctors have been cited for doing this very thing.
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