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Beware Social Media’s Pitfalls

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, November 13, 2012

I can relate. Last month, as part of a competition at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco, I and three other journalists received FitBits, which we wore for the next three days, in a competition for charity.

The FitBit has become the newest executive accessory of choice in Silicon Valley, and has effectively become the iPod of the quantified self movement, in terms of ubiquity. It clips onto a belt or other part of your clothing, and passively records the daily number of steps taken and floors climbed, and from that and other information about you can calculate the number of calories burned.

So at a time when we marvel at the power of the phones we carry around, even smaller devices are starting to accompany us, and social media lets us share our most personal data with whomever we wish.

A survey last year by the American College of Surgeons showed that 20 percent of surgeons were using Twitter. "Half of those surgeons were using it only rarely, which you and I know means they weren't using it at all," Vartabedian says. But what the survey didn't reveal is what the active surgeon-Tweeps are using it for: doctor-to-doctor dialogues? Doctor-to-patient? Telling jokes? In any event, more of them are using their real names than before.

Several social media networks exist for doctor-to-doctor communications: QuantiaMD, Doximity, and Sermo. Then there are what Vartabedian calls "doctors in the wild" using Twitter and Facebook.

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