Everyone seems to use social media these days, and medical professionals are no exception. Whether you work primarily in research or clinical practice, social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, offer ways to connect with colleagues, share ideas or interact with patients.
But which online conversations are appropriate? What do you do if someone you don’t even know sharply disagrees with your post or goes so far as to harass you with ugly comments, an action also known as trolling?
“Interactions on social media have their own set of rules. The usual provider–patient relationship doesn’t exist in this space, and physicians could feel intimidated by negative interactions,” says R. Swamy Venuturupalli, MD, FACP, a Los Angeles-based rheumatologist and former clinical chief of rheumatology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Busy physicians have little time to sift through comments on social media feeds, he says. “Moreover, what is said on social media can last forever. Thus, for most physicians social media use seems to be a difficult experience.”
Many people use social media today to communicate, so it’s important for physicians to engage and help shape conversations in healthcare, he says. “In doing so, it’s important to have a strategy, as well as clear rules of engagement.”