Physicians have been slow to adopt social media in their professional lives. Many consider it a distraction, or worse, a potential liability says Dr. Kevin Campbell MD, FACC.
Dr. Campbell is an internationally recognized Cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Dr. Campbell is the Medical Expert for WNCN and appears weekly on the NBC17 morning news and also makes frequent appearances nationally on Fox News, CBS, and HLN. Unlike most physicians, he is an enthusiastic user of social media and you can follow him on Twitter @DrKevinCampbell. In a recent interview he shared his view on Future Healthcare.
Belbey: What do you say when fellow physicians tell you social media is a waste of time?
Dr. Campbell: When I speak about social media, I am met with lots of skepticism. Fear and a lack of knowledge provokes immediate rejection of a novel concept or practice among the “old guard” physician. During presentations on social media, many physicians will challenge me during the “Q & A” session. When patients are engaged in their own healthcare, outcomes improve , I remind them. We have lots of data from the literature on Blood Pressure and Diabetes Management that indicates that when patients are involved in managing a chronic disease that they have improved control. Social media is merely an extension of the doctor-patient relationship. When physicians are active on social media sites, it affords them with an additional opportunity to reach patients and impact the daily choices that patients make. Lifestyle changes are much more likely to be implemented with regular reinforcement and social media is a simple way to reach hundreds of thousands of patients —and it only takes minutes. In addition, many physicians suggest that the patients that are reached are only the younger, more tech savvy types. However, research from Pew indicates that a significant growth on Twitter is the 55-65 year old age group—SO old (er) people CAN surf.
Belbey: How can patients improve their health by engaging on social media?
Dr. Campbell: Social media provides patients an opportunity to easily interact with physicians, nurses and other patients. Blogging sites afford patients with the opportunity to express opinions and share “patient experiences”. These often provide patients with a great source of information about a particular physician, hospital or procedure. Twitter allows patients to interact and discuss conditions and experiences in “real time”. It is a great place for debate and these discussions lead to better patient engagement. When patients are involved in these discussions, they are more aware of their disease process and are more likely to make lifestyle changes and are more compliant with their medicines. Twitter chats are a great way to create “virtual support groups” and these often breed communities of patients with similar medical problems. These communities are a fantastic way to connect patients—when patients connect, they are able to support one another and hold each other accountable—just as with an exercise buddy at the gym, this accountability and buddy system works well for improving compliance. (Contributor’s note: Before interacting on social media or initiating any campaigns, review your organization’s policies regarding communications and compliance with HIPAA.)
Belbey: How can patients become involved in clinical trials via social media?
Dr. Campbell: Many major academic institutions such as Duke University’s DCRI (Duke Clinical Research Institute) are active on Twitter and other social media outlets. These site are good sources of information for patients and physicians and can promote clinical trial enrollment. Most clinical trials use a large percentage of their budget and staffing for patient recruitment and enrollment—enrollment is usually the largest barrier to success in clinical trial work. Social media can help with spreading the word about a particular trial and connect patients with trial personnel. In addition, once enrolled, social media can be used for updates for subjects as well as investigators. Social media can also be a great source of support for subjects and can improve compliance. It is important to note that any advertisement of clinical trials in cyberspace and on social media outlets are subject to the same rules and regulations from the FDA as traditional advertising and media.