Social Distortion?


A presentation at last week's 13th annual Management of the Hospitalized Patient conference in San Francisco described various ways that hospitals, hospitalists, and HM groups can incorporate new social media into their practice routines.

Hospitalist Russell Cucina, MD, MS, associate medical director of information technology at the University of California at San Francisco, says some physicians mistakenly disclose unprofessional content through social networks. He points to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2009;302(12):1309-1315), which shows some physicians inadvertently violate Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rules by accepting e-mails from patients that contain protected personal health information.

But in many cases, hospitals and physicians use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other networking sites to exchange information with colleagues, promote their practice in their communities, or recruit new physicians. Such organizations as the Mayo Clinic and SHM use Facebook to reach targeted audiences, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses Twitter to quickly disseminate influenza updates. Dr. Cucina says he knows of 167 U.S. hospitals using the much-hyped Twitter, but he could not find an HM group that uses the quick-hit network. He also reports that Ozmosis and Sermo, networking sites reserved for physicians, have yet to catch on in a big way.

Christine Roed, MD, a hospitalist at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., says she sees great potential for communicating within her small medical group and for tapping into public health information. "I also feel it might be quite overwhelming. I think we have to look quite carefully at which information sources are reliable and, in turn, advise the public," Dr. Roed says. "I think a lot of physicians don't really have time to sit down and figure out what they're going to do with these things."

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