Would you see a doctor who denigrates patients online? I wouldn’t.
A few medblogs are all abuzz – again – about what constitutes professionalism in social media. The latest was prompted by a specific posting on twitter. It amazes me that people can look at identical information and come up with very different interpretations as to whether or not it’s appropriate.
(Warning: adult content):
- Tweet1: On call. Resident told me there’s a 36 hour priapism that will likely need to go to OR
- Tweet2: I’m dreading having to go talk to him. Poor thing must be freaking mortified.
- First Commenter: sorry had to say it… ru sure the patient wasn’t staring at you for 36 hours
- Tweet3-responding to 1st comment: I’m not that mean- would’ve fished or cut bait by now
- Second Commenter: Holy. Cow. I don’t even have a penis and that makes me hurt.
- Tweet4-responding to 2nd comment: I know like right?
- Third Commenter?: (gone from feed, can’t find this tweet but it looks like there was one)
- Tweet5-responding to 3rd comment: Apparently he has no risk factors (sickle cell, cocaine, etc) except for having a penis
What a thing for people to be up in arms about. The “unprofessional” accusation seems to come from the response to the juvenile first comment. It was probably not the most well-thought-out reply someone ever made, but it doesn’t say anything bad about the patient. It’s not lacking in compassion. There’s no foul language. It doesn’t violate anybody’s right to privacy.
I appreciate doctors who are willing to put themselves on record and educate patients about the world of medicine. I don’t necessarily care whether they use their real name, a pseudonym, or are anonymous. It’s much more important that the person convey caring and respect toward patients.
A good example is Dr. Grumpy, the Mongolian yak herder. Anonymity isn’t a problem. He’s able to share some of the insane situations that occur in his practice – and there are some doozies – without sounding like he hates all his patients. People do some crazy things sometimes, but he comes across as caring about his patients despite the shenanigans they occasionally pull. If I needed a
neurologist yak herder (thankfully, I don’t), he’s someone I’d want to consult. A few other anonymous bloggers who conduct themselves professionally are Whitecoat & A Country Doctor. It’s really not the name that’s on the blog; it’s the attitude behind the content.
What are some of the things that make a doctor sound professional online?
- Being respectful of others (nurses and other doctors, as well as patients)
- Sharing patient stories to make a point (not as gossip)
- Keeping language clean (which I consider part of being respectful, but have discovered that many people need this spelled out)
- Recognizing that while blogs/tweets can be entertaining, there’s always a little bit of education taking place
- Refraining from spewing anger/derision about patients
Comments welcome. What criteria do you consider important to presenting a professional online image?
Also see Blogging Guidelines for Physicians
*Since doctors often claim to change identifying information, it’s entirely possible that this series of tweets was about a completely different situation (maybe even a her instead of a him). I take everything with a grain of salt and look more at the big picture than the little details when I’m reading things online.