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Jessica is a Ph.D. student at UNC - Chapel Hill studying the effects of media use, technology and emotions on health attitudes and behaviors. Prior to coming to UNC, she worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine writer, and radio/TV/web reporter and producer in Indiana.

Doctor examining a patient

Doctors and social media: To tweet or not to tweet?

A recent Wall Street Journal Health Blog post described the pros and cons of doctors using social media to discuss medical issues. The post features a video produced by the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media that encourages doctors to use social media to disseminate general but medically accurate information for patients.

But, as Katherine Hobson reports in the blog post, there are some dangers for docs who use social media,

Privacy violations are one big pitfall. While it’s desirable for physicians to discuss patient cases, when they do so on Twitter or Facebook they have to “recognize that they are having a conversation in a hallway, not in a conference room with the door closed,” says Victor Montori, a Mayo endocrinologist and medical director of the clinic’s social media center. … Broadcasting purely personal activities can also affect a doctor’s professional image. Would you be totally confident in the ICU physician who just talked to you about your ailing mother if the first page of a Google search features a photo of him doing a keg stand?

What do you think of doctors and other health care professionals using social media? Does it enhance the conversation or muddy the waters even more? Would you go to a doctor who tweets, even anonymously, about his or her patients? Would you like to be able to communicate interactively with your doctor via social media?

Click here to watch the Mayo Clinic’s video on YouTube – “The Doctor is Online: Physician Use, Responsibility, and Opportunity in the Time of Social Media”

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