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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Nearly all U.S. doctors are now on social media

By Pamela Lewis Dolan

The number of physicians using sites such as Facebook and Twitter has grown so quickly that Gabriel Bosslet, MD, realized the moment his study on physician social media use appeared in June that it already was out of date.

The data, collected by Dr. Bosslet between February and May 2010 and posted more than a year later on the Journal of General Internal Medicine site, found that 41.6% of doctors use social media sites.

However, between April and May 2011, research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan found that 84% of doctors use social media for personal purposes. Then in August, nearly 90% of physicians reported that they used at least one social media site personally, according to a survey by the online physician learning collaborative QuantiaMD.

By those numbers, physicians are well ahead of the general adult population -- 65% of the general public use social media, according to a study published in August by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

"The rise in social media has been so meteoric," said Dr. Bosslet, an internist at Indiana University Health and an affiliate faculty member at the Charles Warren Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics in Indianapolis, which sponsored his research. The time that passed between data collection to his study's results being posted was like a "generation later," he said.

However, although physicians appear to be embracing social media, they are still feeling their way around it. According to QuantiaMD, 87% of physicians make personal use of social media, but a lesser amount, 67%, use it professionally. And one thing that hasn't changed during those 18 months is the lack of patient-physician communication on social media.

One-third of the QuantiaMD survey respondents said they had received a friend request from a patient on Facebook. Three-quarters of the physicians declined those invitations.

"There is a real reticence on the part of many physicians to use social media, or even email for that matter, to communicate with patients," said Nancy Fabozzi, health care market research and competitive intelligence specialist with Frost & Sullivan. Not only are physicians worried about liability and privacy issues, but also "there's not enough hours in the day, quite frankly," she said.

The entire story can be found here.
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