22 November 2011

More and more medical professionals are choosing to communicate with patients using social media and other online channels. Thomas Lee, a surgeon at the Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Centre in Westerville, Ohio, is one such professional. It's an electronic way of extending the conversation, says Mr Lee. It creates a vibrant sense of community and a wonderful back-and-forth dialogue.Mr Lee uses FourSquare, Google+, Facebook and Twitter to build his online presence and connect with his patients. While he may be one of a select few in the profession making use of social media tools, many believe that it will become the norm in the next few years., a database of doctors on Twitter, already has 1,300 members. Internist Kevin Pho of Nashua, N.H., a popular medical blogger who engages with his patients via Facebook and Twitter, said: Doctors should be taking advantage of the opportunity. Mr Phos words are supported by the results of a survey carried out by Nebraska-based healthcare research firm National Research Corporation, which found that nearly 20 per cent of patients use social media to find healthcare advice and information. Those who do should find a receptive audience. About 20 per cent of patients already use social media to glean healthcare information, according to an April survey by the National Research Corporation. Facebook tops the list of sites that survey respondents use for such purposes, followed by YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, and FourSquare. But since anyone can post, the information that gets passed along isn't always accurate. Patients can do better if they follow links posted by social media-savvy doctors to provide a direct route to credible help.