The Relevance of Doctors in Social Media

Ann Bartlett Health Guide
  • This week, Riva Greenberg wrote a blog on Huffington Post that questioned whether doctors are less relevant due to social media sites like Diabetic Connect.  


    Riva had some great points about what social media has been doing for patients. Since the online launch of social health-related sites, patients have been able to find support through online groups, like, where patients respond to one another's queries, adding deeper knowledge of their condition and tools for better management. 


    What brought me to HealthCentral was my own experience with a crisis and the failure of the medical community to fix a simple problem. I never wanted to see another person go through this experience again and so I became a patient advocate for people to take a more active role in their care to avoid such mistakes.  I understood very little about what I was getting into, but the journey into this vast diabetes community has become a positive and life changing experience!  

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    For many years, many patients have been lax in their care: either they didn't want to know, or they did know where to dig for more information.  I agree that social media is growing on the patient side, but in order to make this a "healthy" conversation, doctors and pharma needed to be included, because patient-to- patient medical advice isn't the sole answer, but a good start to the journey! The issue to solve is how to engage doctors to connect with us in a way that helps us stay healthy and have a broader conversation to enrich our lives. 


    In her post, Riva talked about the downside of social media being the lack of doctor involvement on many sites. I agree that a lot of doctor content can be generic. However, there is one particular site that has unique perspectives from doctors, who are as active as the patient experts! Riva included a list of recommended sites by Hope Warshaw, diabetes educator and dietician here in DC, but Hope's recommended list did not include one site with doctor-generated information.


    Here within our diabtes community, we have Dr. Bill Quick, who has 30 years of personal diabetes experience and education, and pediatric diabetologist, Dr. Fran Cogen, who is the director of the child/adolescent diabetes program at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. Both Dr. Quick and Dr. Cogan are very active on our site, and, as a result, my relationship with my own medical team has improved.


    Online docs are definitely picking up steam, and not just on this site.  Look at how many of us follow @endogoddess on Twitter.  She tweets her daily musings and sometimes what she has to cope with regarding her job. This helps open our minds and hearts to the issues she faces as a doctor!


    Riva pointed out that doctors need to develop a co-expert relationship with patients.  One of the frustrating issues driving the problem with doctor-patient relationships is that both doctors and patients need to understand that the patient is the expert regarding their body and the doctor is our guide. 


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    In the recent post by David Mendosa, titled Who the Empowered Patients Are, he notes that the problem isn't what doctors aren't doing, it's that we are all experiencing a learning curve. What pharma, doctors and patients need to understand is the changing landscape. 


    It's an exciting place to be and the possibility of making things better is another reason to become part of the bigger group effort!


    Thanks for the inspiration, Riva! Smile



Published On: June 10, 2010