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How Tweeting and Friending Can Benefit Doctor-Patient Communication

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, April 13, 2010

Doctors can also use Twitter to communicate with patients and potential patients—either in addition to or in place of a Facebook account. He or she can disseminate the same information they would on Facebook, but can interact with anyone on the Twitterverse, whereas on Facebook one is limited to interacting with friends or fans.

Dr. Sean Khozin, an internist and founding member of Hello Health, concierge practice based in Brooklyn that utilizes e-mail, instant messaging, and video chat for care coordination, tweets health tidbits and links to articles that he thinks is 394 followers may find interesting.

"We can use social media to coordinate care with patients and with different specialists, all using the same platform," he told the New York Times. "I can monitor my patients, and they can also use these tools to become empowered through a better understanding of their own disease state and active engagement."

He's right—and social media is going to increasingly become a useful tool in the doctor-patient communication virtual toolkit. This is why it's so important that the marketing and public relations teams get involved early to set up standards and guidelines for interacting with patients online. Some organizations' first instinct will be to ban it altogether, but that a futile battle against the inevitable. So long as physicians know the professional limits and best practices that are expected of them, they can have meaningful relationships with patients online and cultivate patient loyalty. And maybe play a little Farmville.

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