Patients connecting with physicians via social media

While some physicians may dread the idea, patients are increasingly eager to connect with them via social media. Increasingly, patients are seeing this as a way around the limitations of traditional practice models, which include limited hours and playing phone tag with doctors.

"Friending" doctors on Facebook and the like is a natural, and probably unavoidable, outgrowth of existing trends, experts note. After all, according to one study by Manhattan Research of 9,000-odd U.S. adults, 5 percent of respondents had sent or received an email message to a doctor, and 49 percent wanted to do so in the future. And these days, social networking is a short step up from email.

When patients connect with doctors online, some have focused on getting routine chores done, such as prescription refills and having health questions answered. But others have gone as far as sending important messages--such as requests for help with serious issues--directly to their doctor via Facebook. In some cases, when they're dealing with e-friendly physicians, they've gotten quicker answers that way, CNN.com's piece notes.

As is usually the case with any new trend, the American Medical Association seems conflicted on whether social networking between patients and doctors is a good thing. Dr. J. James Rohack, the AMA's president, told CNN.com that he believes that communicating with existing patients online has value. On the other hand, he notes, diagnosing electronically is medically inappropriate in most cases.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this CNN.com piece

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