"It's important that we keep abreast of best practices in the use of social media as they relate to our interactions with patients and our training of the next generation of physicians," observed Dr. Elizabeth Kitsis, director of bioethics education and principal investigator of a two-year grant from the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. The award supports the education of healthcare professionals on the proper use of social media and networking sites to positively impact patient health through improved communication and sharing of relevant medical information between patients and caregivers. It also supports development of medical school curricula that offer Einstein’s medical students insights into appropriate uses of social media and best practices in the healthcare arena.
In the 18 months since Einstein was awarded the grant, Dr. Kitsis—who also is associate professor of epidemiology & population health and of medicine —has teamed with Einstein’s offices of faculty development and medical education to host two symposia for faculty as part of the medical school’s overall initiative to promote education and training in online professionalism to students and faculty members. In June 2013, Dr. Farris Timimi, medical director for the Mayo Center for Social Media, presented “Health Care Social Media in the Digital Era.” More recently, in October, the symposium “Social Media and Medicine: Perfect Match or Perfect Storm” featured presentations by Susannah Fox, associate director of digital strategy at the Pew Internet Project, a nonprofit organization that explores the effect of the Internet on society and issues, such as education and healthcare; and by Dr. Kevin Pho, founder of KevinMD.com, a site that serves as a repository for healthcare-related content and as a communication portal between healthcare professionals, policy experts and patients.
In her presentation, Ms. Fox shed light on the dynamic communications landscape in the United States and how patients and their caregivers are increasingly turning to the Internet for information on health issues. Ms. Fox stressed the importance of social media in healthcare by citing a chance meeting on Facebook between two mothers who each had children with cystic fibrosis. Their exchange of information helped resolve an urgent health issue. Ms. Fox described how physicians and medical institutions could contribute to such information exchanges by networking and sharing knowledge.
Dr. Pho raised the issue of false health claims and pseudo-science prevalent in media that can misguide patients and threaten to undermine the influence of physicians. He then discussed how social media is a valuable platform for countering such misinformation, providing doctors an opportunity to move beyond data and evidence to present a more humane side of their story, which is likely to find greater resonance within public opinion.
"The aim of these symposia is to provide faculty with useful insights into the ways they can engage social media to improve patient understanding and, ultimately, patient health," noted Dr. Kitsis.
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