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Are Doctors “Ethically Obligated” to Tweet?

with 2 comments


Although Wendy Sue Swanson, MD (@SeattleMamaDoc) feels that way about her social media presence (as demonstrated in this clip).

There is one piece of the Hippocratic Oath that calls for casting a wider net in “all my acquirements, instructions, and whatever I know” to those within the physician’s circle. The original oath also called all gods and goddesses to witness and observe, but these days the NSA serves that function (despite HIPAA).


Yesterday’s MedAxiom post by Ginger Biesbrock (“Has anyone seen my Dictaphone?”) makes the excellent point that any new technology adopted should make taking care of patients easier. New technology should not get in the way of treatment, it should not be another hurdle to jump. Instead, technology should simplify meeting the patient’s need. That’s why I’m pleased with the movement to hire medical scribes to complete the electronic medical records in the moment—freeing doctors to treat patients versus keyboarding.

Dr. Swanson’s strong feeling about casting a wider net is likely shared by many if not most physicians. And it just so happens that putting correct information out where regular folks might read it may also be a way to grow your practice—which has been the capitalistic promise of social media from day one.

Sure: doctors are busy. But I cannot help but wonder if more and more physicians will make outward communication (blogging, tweeting, connecting) a priority as they work to free themselves from some routine tasks.

Many already are.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

2 Responses

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  1. Obligated … it’s a strong word! I don’t think I’d go that far, but I don’t think I’d give a flat “no” either. I agree that doctors’ obligation extends beyond the exam room in terms of sharing good, credible health information AND in terms of learning from patients holistically as opposed to just through formal research/studies. However, we (collectively) have made it next to impossible for docs to do that through overregulating in the wrong places (paperwork and privacy) and constructing a reimbursement model that’s in direct opposition to achieving this outcome. I hope (as an optimist) that we’ll have an opportunity to align the system and its incentives to make it easier for doctors to share their knowledge and engage more broadly with patients. Thanks for the thought-provoking and somewhat contrarian piece!!

    Greg Matthews (@chimoose)

    October 23, 2014 at 11:24 am

    • Greg, thanks for your comment. And be sure to check out yesterday’s post which was a response to your Social Media Breakfast talk: “Should a doctor blog?” [ ]. I think alignment will shift over time (which makes me an optimist like you). I wonder if we’ll ever move to become a less litigious culture? I really like the notion of learning being a two-way street between patients and physicians. That’s just how our best conversations work.


      October 23, 2014 at 11:32 am

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