Okay, so I'm about to bore some of my audience and I am completely fine with that. In dealing with my clients who are doctors (and have been for the most part) over the last couple of years I have learned a ton about being HIPAA compliant (that law that protects your medical privacy). Whenever you see a doctor you sign a HIPAA release form, allowing doctors to share your medical records with other doctors, etc. More info on HIPAA here. Anyhoo, I quite often get asked if I dispense medical advice via various social media platforms.
The answer is yes...and no. It is illegal for a doctor to discuss a patients condition and/or treatment without their permission. So, posting my diagnosis on your Facebook page is out of the question, even if you feel that's the fastest way to get back to me (and in some cases it may very well be). Obviously there are some exceptions to this group of laws, but I won't go into the specific loopholes because, let's be real, I've lost 80% of you already, am I right? For those of you still here, my job is to create and subsequently manage a doctor's social media presence. You name the platform and I have probably worked with it...or at least experimented with it. The newer the better. Part of doing this is responding to inquiries online, which come at all hours (just ask my friends who wonder why my phone is buzzing at 1am on a Saturday with a tweet from a disgruntled or sick patient). It happens. All. The. Time.
That is why I have a job. It can be too much for a doctor to manage. Patients want to feel their doctor is accessible. Being able to tweet @ them is helpful in that regard. Often times they are asking a question I can answer non-medically. Other times, I am forced to respond with a "please call this number" and I know it can be frustrating for patients. The same works for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Blogging is a whole other animal and a great opportunity for doctors to discuss important issues in their field directly with patients. That part is my job too. Research, editorial calendars, and all that good stuff.
All of this doctors participating in social media stuff is wonderful for the rest of us. It forces doctors to be up to date. We all know what happens when people let their online presence go stale. No bueno. It creates transparency where their used to be none. You can look at these online conversations and help decide what doctor is the best fit for your needs. That's the way I like to look at it. Let's get it all out there. Without names or social security numbers of course.
As always, for more specific questions, email me email@example.com. I could talk about this stuff all day...and most days I do just that!