Doctors Still Leery of Professional Social Media

While some professions are basically shoo-ins for social media (journalists and Twitter, for example) others have been much slower to embrace the online universe, especially in cases where using social media might run afoul of legal and regulatory constraints and incur liability. That’s clearly the case with the medical profession, as physicians remain leery of using social media for professional purposes.

That’s the upshot of a national survey of 257 physicians conducted by the MedData Group in June. According to MedData, 44% of physicians surveyed said they don’t use social media professionally, while 32% use LinkedIn, 29% use online physician communities, 21% use Facebook, and 10% use Google+.

Doctors obviously aren’t totally against social media, as 60% said the use it for personal reasons. The compares with just 21% said they use it to keep up with healthcare news, and just 18% use it to engage with peers about professional subjects. Meanwhile 29% said they don’t use social media at all, even for personal reasons.

When physicians who don’t use social media for professional purposes were asked what was preventing them from doing so, 52% cited concerns about patient privacy, 51% said they don’t have the time, 42% said they were concerned about liability, 40% said they believe social media has little professional value, and 23% said they’re just not familiar with using social networks (I’m guessing this may reflect the attitude of an older cohort of physicians).

MedData also cited some anecdotal evidence, in the form of quotes from survey responses, suggesting doctors are (quite understandably) worried about their own privacy too. One respondent admitted “I worry it may allow patients into my private life,” and another said “I want to keep my social life separate from my professional life.”

All that said, professional social media does appear to be gradually gaining traction among doctors. Earlier this year Doximity, which maintains a social network for medical professionals, said it reached 250,000 members, or roughly 35% of all doctors in the U.S., with members sending 10,000 messages to other members every day. Doximity pre-populates its national directory with practice information from the National Provider Identifier, Medicare, and other HHS databases, but all physicians who want to access their profiles are subject to a three-stage identity verification. Once on board, they can search Doximity members by clinical interests, hospital affiliations, specialties, languages spoken, insurance accepted, and PubMed citations.

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