Is Social Media Bad for Physicians?

I read with great an article titled Facebook and Physicians: A prescriptions for Trouble.  In it, Lucas Mearia references a guy by the name of Crotty who advocates strongly on the notion that doctors should refrain from engaging patients and collegues online.

The article highlights several situations that could potentially lead doctors into trouble.

For example, a doctor who gave a patient a prescription for medicine that could have an adverse affect when mixed with alcohol might decide to check out the patient’s Facebook page to see if the individual is telling the truth about his drinking habits, Crotty said.

To me this is a little far fetched and an extreme example to make an ethical point. Let’s be realistic though, do doctors have time to check every single patient’s profile on Facebook? How long would that take? How would the doctor know if he/she was even on the medication?

The article also talks about sites like Doximity and Sermo which are social sites exclusively for doctors . Crotty equates these types of networks where doctors ask other doctors for advice as curbside consultations.

“What if the treatment they suggested was wrong and you chose the wrong one?” he said. “The thing is, when you get a second opinion, the doctor you’re getting the opinion from has no clinical context or clinical relationship with that patient.

How is this different than calling up a collegue and asking her for an opinion on a patient? Does Mr Crotty think that a physician is not smart enough to discern the fact that the consult physician isn’t seeing the patient, isn’t examing the patient and knows only what she is being told?

I think this Crotty guy is completely missing the boat with his assertions.

I think social media has giving us the tools to connect with our communities in ways we have never been able to do before. We can now broadcast, share, be published, connect, educate, curate, an collaborate thanks to social media tools.

And you know who are the ones in the best position to take advantage of these tools? Pediatricians. Why? Because peds’ demographic will always skew younger than other specialties. And guess who are the ones using all this new technology?

If we want to have any type of influence over generations to come, we will have to have a presence online. Simply put, this isn’t going away. This is the future, no doubt.

We can continue defending the status quo, like this Crotty guy, or we can find ways to leverage these wonderful tools the Internet has afforded us.

And as for Mr. Lucas Mearian of ComputerWorld, I think he should stick with writing on issues of storage, disaster recovery, business continuity, financial services and healthcare IT, because clearly he has no clear idea of how doctors could leverage this technology.

To read the entire Computerworld article, click here.


  1. As always, the insight is spot on. The emerging social platforms are taking off because there will always be a need for meaningful physician patient connections and the traditional Marcus Welby approach has been eroded by many things. I see how dramatically the doctor-patient relationship has been affected by the need to make room for the patient’s health insurer (OK, that’s my humble opinion…) as well as the high volume of patients that are seen each day by physicians when compared to yesteryear.

    It is no surprise to me that innovative thinkers are looking at ways to improve on the valuable knowledge and expertise that physicians have. Common sense must prevail against the disaster/at -risk scenarios mentioned in your analysis. As a healthcare consumer, however, I know without a doubt that my father was right. The triad is FAST, GOOD and CHEAP. At any intersection of need, you can only have two of those three.

    As technology improves the doctor-patient relationship as well as the quality of the care rendered, FAST and (possibly CHEAP…or cost-effective, if you’d rather have a kinder adjective) stand to benefit. I would argue that a new kind of GOOD is emerging as well.