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Outsourcing Relationships And Peddling Influence: Why Social Media Is Not Fun Anymore

When I first started blogging in 2006, the medical blogosphere consisted of a small group of physicians, nurses, and patient advocates. We knew each other well, and spent time each day visiting our favorite blogs and posting personal comments of encouragement and insight. We developed real friendships, and were optimistic about our brave new online writing frontier. We thought we could change the healthcare system for the better, we believed that our perspectives could influence policy, and we were sure that our writing could help our patients lead healthier lives.

I remember with great fondness the medical blogger conference that I attended in Las Vegas in 2009. It was the first time I’d met most of my blog friends in real life (IRL) – it was like seeing your favorite pen pals after years of correspondence. We talked all night, had marveled at how a love of writing had brought together a surgeon from South Africa, an ER nurse from California, and a Canadian rehab physician, among others. We figured that social media was the glue that held us all together. Since then, I am sad to say that for me, the glue has lost its stickiness due to dilution by third parties and a glut of poor quality content dividing attentions and exhausting our brains’ filter system.

Fast forward 7 years and most of my email correspondence is from strangers wanting to embed text links in my blog, people selling SEO services, or PR agencies inviting me to provide free coverage of their industry-sponsored conferences and webinars. I can’t think of a single friend who has left a comment on my blog in the past three months. Sure we see each other’s updates on Facebook and occasionally on Twitter, but I can’t remember the last real conversation we’ve had. Social Media has become irreversibly cluttered, and I’ve never felt more isolated or guarded about the future of medical writing.

My thoughts on this subject gelled when Twitter announced that LeBron James was following me (along with a select 80,000+ others). Obviously, LeBron has no idea who I am, and I’m almost certain he had nothing to do with his Twitter account following me. He, like many others, has outsourced his online relationship-making. It’s the ultimate irony – using social media to distance yourself from others, while maintaining an appearance of engagement. Sort of like sending a blow up doll of yourself to a party.

So what keeps some people going on these social media platforms? Perhaps it’s the allure of influence – the idea that many people are listening to you gives a sense of importance and meaning to your efforts. But take a cold hard look at your followers – do you know who most of them are? Or is there a large group of “hotchick123″ type Twitter accounts counted among them? I used to block followers who didn’t seem real or relevant, but it became so much of a chore that I couldn’t keep up. I was overwhelmed by the Huns.

One could argue that my social media fatigue  is my own fault – I didn’t screen my followers properly, I didn’t follow the “right” people, I haven’t curated my friendships with as much care as I ought to… But I know I’m not alone in my pessimism. A recent Pew Research poll suggests that people are leaving Facebook at a rapid rate. And as far as Twitter is concerned, it’s not for everyone.

I guess the bottom line for me is that social media isn’t as much fun as it used to be. I miss my blog friends, I miss the early days of being part of an online community. I don’t write as much as I used to because I don’t know my audience by name anymore. This “party” is full of strangers and I don’t like the familiarity that continues in the absence of true friendship.

Time to spend more of my energy on my patients, family, and friends IRL. And that’s a good lesson for a doctor to learn…

Why Should You Attend Blog World Expo?

I’m a speaker at Blog World Expo, Los Angeles, on November 4th, 2011. And guess what? Four Better Health contributors will be joining me! Nick Genes, Kim McAllister, Terri Pollick, and Kerri Sparling will all be part of the Social Health track. You can get discount tickets my clicking on the Blog World Expo icon on the top right of the Better Health home page. We all hope to see you there!

For those of you who are on the fence about going – here’s what I’ve been asked to talk about: “physicians engaging online in social health.”

You’ll learn about:

1. How I used Twitter to help patients when there was a flu vaccine shortage

2. How I use podcasting to teach about eye health and vision care

3. How I use blogging to instruct families on healthy eating strategies to prevent illness

4. How I use telemedicine and mobile devices (at eDocAmerica and DocTalker Family Medicine) to answer patient questions in rural areas, where there is a doctor shortage

If you work in healthcare, then the Social Health track is a must-attend. Not only will you find out about cutting edge trends in healthcare communications, but you’ll get to rub elbows with early-adopter physicians, nurses, and advocates who are using innovative digital strategies to deliver care, educate patients, and change the world.

And for those who will be attending the conference for other reasons, but are wondering if they should stop by the Social Health sessions… It will be a great opportunity for you to learn how to use online resources more effectively to care for yourself and your family’s health (and save money in the process).  Or think of it this way: at some point everyone needs a doctor… that includes parenting bloggers, military bloggers, god bloggers, political bloggers, and tech bloggers. So let’s meet each other at Blog World Expo!

* You could snag a live, in-person conference ticket and save 20%. Enter the code “BWEVIP20″ for the discount.

Nurse Ratched’s Place At Blog World Expo

Dr.-A2What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? I think not. It ends up on YouTube. Case in point. You must be careful when you are around Dr. Anonymous. He has a video camera, and he’s not afraid to use it. You’ve been warned.

The first med blogger track at BlogWorld/New Media Expo 09 was a wonderful experience. I want to thank Johnson and Johnson and Medpage Today for their sponsorship. I also want to thank Kim at Emergiblog and Dr. Val at Better Health for all their hard work. Kim knocked on doors and got things rolling, and Val help put the panels together. This shindig would not have gotten off the ground without YOU!

gun2I don’t know where to begin. Going to Las Vegas is like dropping in on another planet. It’s filled with a lot of stuff that can get you into trouble like slot machines, Elvis wedding chapels, and machineguns. No, that’s not a typo. I said machineguns. This is the first sign that I saw when I stepped off the plane when I landed in Las Vegas. It’s an ad for a Las Vegas shooting range where you can fire off a few rounds when you get into town. Whatever happened to the days of innocence when the most exciting thing you could do while you were in Las Vegas was get drunk, marry someone you didn’t know, and go see a Wayne Newton show? I got worried when I saw this sign, but then I thought what could happen at a blogger convention. After all, I was going to be surrounded by computer geeks and responsible health care professionals like GruntDoc and Dr. Wes. Right? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Nurse Ratched's Place*

ABC News Covers Medblogger Track At Blog World Expo

My friend and morning ABC anchor, Dave Lucas, is tired of all the false health information that fills his email inbox each day. He’s very relieved that there are physicians, nurses, and patient advocates “swimming against the tide” of pseudoscience and misleading health information online. Today Dave and I discussed how people can find accurate and potentially life-saving health information through peer-reviewed medical blogs, thanks to the health blogger code of ethics (administered by MedPage Today).

Why I Skipped My Medical Society Meeting For A Blog Conference

I have a lot of friends in Boston this week who are attending the annual meeting for the American Academy of Family Physicians (ie – Congress of Delegates or AAFP CoD). And, they may not be too happy with what they read in this post, but here goes.

As some of you know, I’m scheduled to present at BlogWorld Expo (BWE) later this week in Las Vegas. I’m going to be moderating a panel about how patient privacy and the HIPPA law can impact blogging, podcasting, and interacting with social networking. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

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