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Defining Online Physician Conduct

This week a reporter cornered me on the issue of professional behavior in the social space. How is it defined? I didn’t have an answer. But it’s something that I think about.

Perhaps there isn’t much to think about. As a “representative” of my hospital and a physician to the children in my community, how I behave in public isn’t any different than a decade ago. Social media is just another public space. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we’re in public. When I’m wrapped up in a Twitter thread it’s easy to forget that the world is watching. But the solution is simple: Always remember that the world is watching.

On Twitter I think and behave as I do in public: Very much myself but considerate of those around me. I always think about how I might be perceived.

Here’s a better question, online or off: What is professional behavior? I have a pediatrician friend who, along with the rest of his staff, wears polo shirts and khaki shorts in the summer. The kids love it.  One of my buttoned-down colleagues suggested that this type of dress is “unprofessional.” Or take a handful of physicians and ask them to review a year of my blog posts and my Twitter feed. I can assure you that some will identify elements that they find “unprofessional.” I believe I keep things above board.

This is all so subjective.

The reporter was also interested in how I separate my professional and personal identities in the online space. I’m not sure the two can be properly divided. The line is increasingly smudged. I try to keep Facebook as something of a personal space. I think it was Charlene Li who suggested that she only “friends” people she knows well enough to have over for dinner. That’s evolving as my rule as well. But independent of how I define “well enough,” Facebook is still a public space. My comments and photos can be copied to just about anywhere.

Social media has not forced the need for new standards of physician conduct. We just need to be smarter than we were before. Everyone’s watching.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Narrative Medicine: Healing Through Storytelling

More in the evolving meme of narrative medicine: Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (my alma mater) have found that for a select population of individuals, listening to personal narratives helps control blood pressure. While the power of stories is old news, the connection to clinical outcomes is what’s newsworthy here. Read Dr. Pauline Chen’s nice piece in the New York Times. The implications for ongoing work in this area are mind boggling.

The Annals of Internal Medicine study authors sum it up nicely:

Emerging evidence suggests that storytelling, or narrative communication, may offer a unique opportunity to promote evidence-based choices in a culturally appropriate context.  Stories can help listeners make meaning of their lives, and listeners may be influenced if they actively engage in a story, identify themselves with the storyteller, and picture themselves taking part in the action.

This nascent field of narrative medicine caught my eye when I stumbled onto the work of Rita Charon and the concept of the parallel chart. Extrapolation to social media may be the next iteration of this kind of work.

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Two Docs Who’ve Passed: They Might’ve Been Social Media Giants

This year I learned about the death of two physicians that were pretty important to me.

The first was my pathology teacher, Dr. Guido Majno. In addition to being a tremendously kind and curious person, he and his wife wrote the best textbook I’ve ever read.

The second death was that of my pediatrician growing up, Dr. Thomas Peebles. Funny, although he followed me from birth to high school, my family never knew about his incredible research background. We learned it in the many obituaries.

It’s worth reflecting on their accomplishments and the manner in which they conducted their lives and practice — especially in this era, when doctors are encouraged to develop their social media presence and be proactive about online reviews.

Would they have used these new tools? Would they even have needed them? Would they have found the idea of trading links to medical stories on Twitter to be interesting? Stimulating? Or maybe distressing or distasteful?

I never thought to ask them.

*This blog post was originally published at Blogborygmi*

Global Health Communication: The Top 10 In 2010

00001From Blog 4 Global Health — an “interactive blog from the Global Health Council’s Policy, Research and Advocacy team” — here’s The Top 10 in 2010 Global Health Communication. An excerpt:

If global health communication was characterized by anything in 2010, it was the rise of Twitter and other social media among non-profit organizations as a way of bypassing increasingly irrelevant traditional media and taking their messages directly to their target groups. From the Global Health Council, we saw more and more of our members — large and small — embracing new media like blogging, micro-blogging and social networks like Facebook. At the year’s last meeting of our Global Health Communicators Working Group in November, I asked for a show of hands of those whose organizations were not using social media. No hands went up.

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

Chronic Illness And “The Spoon Theory”

Cartoon image of girl carrying a spoon that's as big as she isIf you don’t truly understand how draining it can be to live with chronic illness, including chronic pain, go read The Spoon Theory right now. In five minutes it forever changed my own awareness of my wife’s arthritis and bone pain.

On Twitter I saw “spoonies” raving about this months ago, but I finally took time to read it: 2,100 words and worth every second. Also, on Twitter follow @bydls – “But you don’t look sick!” – and explore their smart website, where they’re wisely selling posters of the story for doctors’ waiting rooms, and everything else imaginable in modern outreach through social media.

These are smart people, and this is a powerful piece of writing.

*This blog post was originally published at*

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