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Why Family Medicine Needs Social Media

I wasn’t able to attend the Annual Leadership Forum (ALF) and the National Conference of Special Constituencies (NCSC) meetings in person this year. This is an annual meeting in Kansas City put on by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). I know that it can be hard to believe that someone actually likes going to a meeting. However, for me, these meetings always re-energize me and connect me with people with a passion for Family Medicine.

In 2010, there were only a few of us utilizing social media tools like twitter and facebook (including my blog posts from Thursday & Friday). However, just a year later, there seems to have been an explosion of people utilizing these platforms to a point yesterday when I saw a bunch of people signing up for the first time during the meeting. Even members of the AAFP Board of Directors were creating twitter accounts yesterday. Wow!

I really believe that this year, 2011, is when the Family Medicine community will more fully embrace social media, not only as a means of socialization, but also as a means of advocacy for our specialty. Here are some other reasons why I believe that Family Medicine needs social media:

  • Maintaining The Meeting Momentum: How often does this happen to you? At the meeting/event, you’re all psyched up and ready to conquer the world! Then in the car and/or on the plane ride home, you get overwhelmed with the reality of returning to work and all that energy from the meeting is gone – yielding to the status quo of home. Well, that doesn’t need to happen with social media. You can remain connected with all those great people you met. In fact, what I have found is that those great people keep you motivated through all those day-to-day challenges. Why aren’t you signed up for twitter or facebook yet?
  • Join the #FMRevolution: Dr. Jay Lee, the 2012 Conference Chair/Convener for the NCSC meeting, wrote a compelling essay called “#FMRevolution – Family Medicine Revolution” back in March. In my opinion, this has picked up a lot of traction in the Family Medicine social media community. If you haven’t read this blog post, you must. In fact, the California Academy is going to unveil an entire website on this topic coming up on Friday, May 13, 2011 and undoubtedly this premiere will be a social media event. Join the revolution!
  • Letting The World Know About Family Medicine Events: Even though I was in my office seeing patients yesterday, I was able to track the activities a the ALF/NCSC meetings through twitter. The week prior, I was part of a group of people tweeting out at the Annual Spring Conference at the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) meeting in New Orleans. On Monday & Tuesday, May 9-10 in Washington DC, the AAFP has an opportunity to broadcast to the world the Family Medicine Congressional Conference. (Just a suggestion, please don’t use #fmcc as the hashtag, as people will not know what that is. Gotta use something like #FamMed or #FMRevolution. The EMS folks used #EMSOnTheHill recently and it worked out well for them)
  • What Is A Family Physician?: Social media gives the opportunity to start an online dialogue. At the previously mentioned STFM meeting, we got into a great discussion about why Family Medicine really has not done a great job of defining who we are and what we do to our own patients, to the public at large, to payors, and to legislators? Mark Ryan, Family Physician from Virginia, carried this discussion onto social media with his post “How Do I Define Family Medicine?” (including a comment from a medical student) Can you imagine that? Crowdsourcing the definition of Family Medicine. What an incredible way to do it via social media. It is discussions like this that need to take place to help our specialty.

There are so many more reasons why Family Medicine needs social media. Feel free to jot your reasons below in the comment section. Are you new to social media? Did you just sign up for twitter at the ALF/NCSC meeting? Welcome! As you start using this stuff more, please feel free to let us know your questions. There are already a lot of knowledgeable people in the Family Medicine community using this stuff.

Once you start becoming more familiar with how things work, I challenge you to get your voice out there by writing a blog post (like my post entitled “What Is A Family Medicine Leader?“), by recording a youtube video, or by whatever means you feel comfortable with. Family Medicine needs us, and more importantly, our patients need us! Let your voice be heard!

*This blog post was originally published at Family Medicine Rocks Blog - Mike Sevilla, MD*

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