Barriers To Physician Social Media

You know, I gotta be honest with you. I may get in trouble for posting this - especially since this is not my event and I did not record this. But, hey, hardly anyone reads this blog. So, I think I'll be ok - Hehe.

This short 10 minute segment above is - in my opinion - the best session from day one of the E-Patient Connections conference (#epatcon hashtag on twitter). This is a Q&A session by @Doctor_V and @KentBottles. I also invite you to check out the individual presentations by @Doctor_V (Bryan Vartabedian) and @KentBottles as well (apologies for the pre-roll ad you'll see in these videos).

In the Q&A above, one of the issues that comes up is the obligatory question, "Why are there not more doctors using social media?" And, listening to these two superstars of physician social media talk about this question was fascinating to watch. I get this question a lot as well, but I just blabber on and on without a real pertinent point. Here are some of the points that were brought out and I'll comment on them as well.

Kent says the barrier to physician social media is Fear - "The fear of not knowing what the heck you're doing and being asked to function in a totally different way in which you have not been trained.. It's fear of change." Bryan adds that time and liability are also concerns. I've said in my talks that liability, patient privacy, lack of payment for electronic communication, and time - these are the barriers in my view why physicians are not engaging in social media. How to overcome these? That is pretty tough at this point.

Another point that is brought out is passion. "You can't fake it in social media," Bryan says. I definitely agree with that. In the people that I think of - even not in the health sphere - those with passion for what they do and what they talk about - these are the champions of social media. I can even tell myself. If I'm not really into a podcast or a certain blog post, I delete it, I don't finish it, or I don't even post it. The only thing worse than social media is Really Bad social media. Just like if a patient loses confidence in you as a physician, if a reader/listener loses confidence in your social media - it's very difficult or even impossible to get that back.

An interesting section of discussion of the video above is talk about physician vulnerability and how to deal with that. Kent says that many doctors have a problem with saying "I don't know." Bryan says that doctors like to keep a "therapeutic distance" from patients in that they do not want to reveal too much about themselves. Bryan goes on to challenge some docs in his community to post to his blog, only to hear back "I don't feel comfortable saying that in public [on your blog]"

I admit that I hear that a lot from my own colleagues as well. Pretty much all doctors feel comfortable in the confines of an exam room with a one-on-one conversation with their patient. However, the possibility of placing them in a public forum - like a community organization, or the internet - many physicians shy away from this.

From a Family Medicine standpoint, it is my passion to help my FamMed colleagues try to overcome this lack of confidence feeling. I said in my talk last week that for too long, Family Medicine has let our specialty be defined by others because we have not been able and/or willing to tell our own story about why we're important to patient care and important to the health care of our country.

Thanks so much to #EPatCon for recording this and thanks to Bryan and to Kent for their very insightful comments. Especially if you're a physician reading this, I welcome you and I challenge you to leave a comment about the video above and/or my analysis and commentary. I am not an expert nor am I a pundit. I'm just a guy passionate about social media and medicine - Hoping that my physician colleagues have the courage to join the conversation!