Dos and don'ts for engaging patients in social media

While practice-management experts devote much attention to appropriate physician use of social media, the other side to consider is how to engage patients online. When practices discuss social media with patients, consider passing on the following advice:

Use social media.
Learn about doctors' clinical work and interests, as well as useful practice information such as patient wait times, flu clinics, etc., Naheed Dosani, a family medicine resident and Jeremy Petch, a policy researcher in Canada, advised in a post for Kevin MD. In addition to sharing the physicians' clinical expertise, patients should share their own stories about their experiences with the practice, as well as particular conditions.

Use virtual support groups.
Patients might want to engage in online groups that discuss pitfalls, side-effects of therapies and the social and psychological aspects of a certain illness. Practices could encourage them to network with other patients to discover strategies for living more healthfully on a budget, for example.

Don't overshare personal information.
While many online forums, like the one run by the American Cancer Society, require patients to post with aliases and avoid sharing personally identifying information, it's hard to know who may be "listening in" (or even scraping your information) on other sites or platforms, such as Twitter, a recent article from the Atlantic noted. Remind patients that they should be careful about how much information they disclose, such as names, locations and conditions.

Don't believe everything you read.
Not everything a physician or health professional posts on the Internet may be what other doctors consider credible. The Los Angeles Times has compiled a list of doctors' most-trusted Web resources. Remind patients to talk to their physician for recommendations specific to their condition.

To learn more:
- read the post from KevinMD
- see the article from the Atlantic
check out the story from the Los Angeles Times

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