“When I search my own name, my blog or Twitter account—things that I control—end up being the first things that show up on Google,” Dr. Sufka explains. “By being proactive, I get a little more control over what a person reads about me. I would rather have my own Twitter page or blog show up first as opposed to not at all.”
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Explore This IssueJune 2013
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The reason people are online is because they want to interact. Most rheumatologists are going to be happy to interact with you.
Patience, Problems, and Persistence
Blogging and tweeting can consume a great deal of any physician’s time. Still, Dr. Sufka believes Twitter is one of the best ways to ease into social media, mainly because each posting can’t exceed 140 characters.
He suggests following medical groups or associations like the American College of Rheumatology (@ACRheum), which maintains a list of rheumatologists on Twitter. Still, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the process if you overdo it. As an experienced online practitioner, Dr. Sufka can follow between 170 and 200 people before feeling overwhelmed. For novices, however, he says up to 100 may be more realistic.
Just like any other activity, it’s important to establish goals for social media interaction. What do you want to accomplish on Twitter, Facebook, or with a blog? Dr. Sufka’s goals for his blog are simple: to post medical information he finds interesting or unique. For example, one of his recent blogs focused on his approach to attending medical conferences. Before conferences, he tweets other rheumatologists to schedule informal meetings with them during the conference. Since most sessions are recorded and can be watched online, he recommended that doctors use their time wisely by networking with other physicians.
But as a blogger, he admits he’s a bit lackadaisical. His blog is updated with new information every several months. Dr. Sufka flat out refuses to post information on his blog that appears on other sites.
While a few hundred people read his blog every month—ranging from physicians and patients to friends—he says he has never encountered any Twitter problems.
However, he says some physicians have engaged in conflicts online. In some cases, they supported different treatment approaches or methodologies, which stirred up emotions—even hostility—between tweeting physicians.
“Online conflicts are pretty rare, especially in the field of rheumatology, since physicians in our field tend to be pretty nice and happy,” he says, adding that results from several studies support that rheumatology is one of the “happier” medical fields. “[Problems] are easily solved by [making] simple statements such as ‘Let’s agree to disagree,’ or tend to be forgotten if ignored for a few days.”