Survey: 60% of Physicians Believe Social Media “Improves the Care They Deliver”

Survey: Doctors and Social MediaMany physicians are making use of social media – as a way to manage new information, discuss the latest journal articles or research, and to help provide quality care.  David May, MD, told American Medical News that Twitter can function as a large-scale “doctors’ lounge,” and an open space for discussion.

A recent study by the Journal of Medical Research discovered that a whopping 85% of oncologists and primary care physicians use social media (at least once a week or once a day) to read or explore health information, and the majority of those surveyed (60%) said that social media “improves the care they deliver.”

The survey asked physicians how social media can be used for professional development and lifelong learning.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • 24% use social media daily to scan or explore new medical information
  • 14% contribute information to social media daily
  • on a weekly basis, 61% scanned and explored new info and 46% contributed information on social media
  • 58% percent perceive social media to be beneficial and a good way to get current, high-quality information

Dr. Robert S. Miller, MD and co-author of the study, has been using Twitter for years.  He filters out the ‘noise’ associated with the social media platform by following others with similar interests and checking out stories that he sees mutiple references to among his contacts.  Using Twitter has also expanded his network; the platform has “led to professional relationships with people he never would have met outside the virtual world.”

Twitter is also useful for David May, MD, who looks to other doctors on the platform to offer their opinions and add to the discussion about the latest journal articles and research. “The social media world is such an intense, immediately responsive place that you can have tremendous amounts of traffic pointing out the good and bad about an article itself technically, about the concepts that were put forward, and about potential flaws that were in a paper,” he told American Medical News.

Many physicians are also using social networks that are closed communities, limited to other physicians. While closed communities are seen as being “safer” than public forums like Facebook and Twitter, some physicians argue that they miss out on a number of social media’s benefits. Another co-author of the study, Dr. Vartabedian, said “Democratizing media has completely opened my eyes to the experience of the patient,” and has allowed him to connect with patient advocacy groups and understand them better.

The study’s lead author, Brian McGowan, PhD, said that 20% of physicians think using social media sites is a bad idea, around 30% think it’s great, and 50% are somewhere in the middle –  and might be in favor of social media if more studies would highlight its positive side, rather than dwelling on its dangers.

The conclusion? While social media will never replace traditional channels of research and learning for the medical profession, it can be a valuable addition to a physician’s knowledge base – and a useful forum for discussion.

The Journal of Medical Research study was published online on Sept. 24. The results were based on 485 responses (out of 1,685 surveys) that were emailed at random to practicing oncologists and primary care physicians.