Monday, March 26, 2012

Social Media and Medicine: A Perfect Marriage?

This is a guest post by Natalia Zurek of regarding the use of social media in medicine.

Celebrities, non-profits and big businesses has discovered the virtual gold mine of social media, so why not the medical profession? It’s not only hospital administrators and doctors who could participate, but the patients themselves. This is the opinion of UK diabetes specialist David Kerr, MD and Lior Tamir, DDS, the founder and CEO of oLyfeMD. The writers and editors at also find the marriage of social media and medicine an intriguing possibility.

In an article for MedCrunch, Kerr and Tamir sketch out what they hope the future can hold for patients, doctors and social media. They foresee doctors and patients leaving established social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to start their own contributor driven websites.

How the Social Media Sites Would Work

Current social media sites, Facebook in particular, have problems keeping data of their members private. The first step in a medical-based social media site would have to be to ensure privacy for the users, especially the patients looking for advice. Security software is already available to protect a web-user’s privacy.

Patients can post their problems and an abbreviated version of their medical histories to the site. They could also do a daily diary entry of what it’s like to live with chronic conditions. The website software could then recommend pages of information specific to an individual patient’s health condition to the patient. Other site users could also comment and share their own experiences with the patient.

Doctors would have to go through  a screening process in order to post medical information onto the site. They would also act as fact-finders and point out any inaccuracies to patients, the community and to the webmaster. Patients can then vote on which doctor they prefer and become the site experts in certain topics, such as cancer or geriatric care.

Advantages for the Medical Industry

Both Kerr and Tamir caution the medical industry against expecting to make a lot of money from participating or supporting medical social media sites. But a social media medical site can still prove to be priceless. Medical workers can see treatments from the patients’ viewpoints. Pharmaceutical companies can see how their products work in the real world and what they need to focus their research and development on. Universities can see where there is the most public support for studies to invest time and personnel in. Clinical trials also would not have to be done in just one or two specific medical
buildings, but can whole or in part be done from holding “clinical trials” in the form of questionnaires on the website. Organizers of clinical medical trials can also post details of what they need in volunteer subjects and call for volunteers. Although there are websites listing current and forthcoming clinical trials, most people are completely unaware that these sites exist.

Advantages for the Patient

This writer sees many advantages for patients and their families through the use of a social media medical site. Many patients become isolated from other people and depressed because of their illness. Even connecting to others online is better than staying in bed all day wrapped in self-pity. Patients with the same medical conditions can share tips and tricks for how to cope with symptoms.

Patients can also learn how to better communicate with their doctors. Many patients do not realize that doctors and nurses are not mind-readers. They are extremely busy and can make mistakes. Patients can learn what information they need to give their doctors and better questions to ask their doctors in order to help heal.

This article was written by Natalia Zurek, a member of team.  It is a project, which aims to provide free accurate medical information and support patients, seeking help on the Internet. 


  1. Amazing post Natalia. Social media has various advantages both to patients and doctors. Social media has come a long way connecting different people with different medical issues to doctors and physicians all over the world.

    Erick Kinuthia
    Team MDwebpro

  2. I dont believe it will catch on for many doctors in the US because of litigation and having their words/advice/action plan used against them or scrutinized. The liability is just too big.

  3. Wouldnt catch on with doctors in the US, too much liability for litigation. Putting stuff into writing here is a death sentence especially when another doctor scrutinizes another doctor's strategy and the patient sues on this basis.

    Security would have to be so tight, and a 3rd party would have to atleast verify the identity of doctors. But the precedent in the US has already been set where anonymous bloggers had to be identified. So what is to stop a judge from ordering a service to reveal the identity ofa n 'anonymous' but verified doctor, when a patient wants to sue?

    It just wont work the way the industry is set up here. Doctors are already a very easy target. At the same time we have to protect the patients against unprofessional or outright dangerous physicians, however small that minority might be.



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