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How Social Media Can Advance Humanism in Medicine

“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.”– Abraham Maslow.

The New York Times recently published the op-ed “Dr. Google is a Liar,” written by cardiologist Haider Warraich, MD. Dr. Warraich describes the rise of fake medical news and the adverse consequences of a population who gets their medical information from social media.

How Social Media Can Advance Humanism in Medicine.

He shares that when countering these cultural memes of medical misinformation, which stir up strong emotions in our patients, stating dry medical jargon is not effective.

He found that his patient was more open to his advice when he also shared about his own father’s heart attack. Dr. Warraich wisely argues for physicians to take back control of medical news by harnessing the power of humanism and narrative medicine to become effective storytellers.

We wholeheartedly agree with him. Let’s stop burying your heads in the sand and pretending you can convince your patients to resist Dr. Google.

Let’s put yourselves back in the driver’s seat. We believe that the next generation of great doctors will be those who communicate on the Internet effectively and in a compelling enough way to sustain an audience and engender trust.

In a time when trust in doctors is eroding, your patients want to see that you are human too and to do that you need to overcome your fears of showing your humanity.

You know that when doctors and nurses are burnt out, patient outcomes decline.

Literature also supports that when doctors display more empathy for their patients, outcomes improve.

Humanism in medicine works best when it is a two-way street, wherein our health care system treats both patients and health care workers as human beings.

There’s a natural link between humanism in medicine and social media.

While there has been a core group of physicians on social media for the past decade, you are now seeing it become mainstream.

Through this increased visibility, physicians are using social media mobilization to organize and to advocate for better patient care and better work conditions.

In today’s broken health care system, clinicians are burdened by the reality that their patients are fighting socioeconomic and structural barriers that “no medicines can touch.”

If both physicians and patients feel powerless against these forces, it’s not a big leap to envision physician advocacy as part of the antidote.

Part of makes what makes social media appealing is that it allows unheard voices to become public.

This is crucial particularly for physicians, with many of you working long hours providing direct face to face patient care, and thus not having the time for community engagement.

Social media platforms have become a watering hole of sorts, where it’s okay to share your perspective as a physician.

Social media platforms have become a watering hole of sorts, where it’s okay to share your perspective as a physician.

It is important to remember that social media is a public space, and it should not be used to share protected health information or sensitive personal material.

Some physicians argue that these risks mean you physicians should stay away from social media.

However, with the next generation of doctors spending at least a decade of their life on Instagram and Snapchat before medical school, we cannot simply ignore the fact the social media has its own place in health care.

Universities have been taking notice and creating positions to legitimize social media.

Some physicians who are even just one generation older are suspicious of social media.

To them, it’s extra, and it’s dangerous. We wonder if there is an underlying fear that the next generation is going about things differently?

It seems there is denial and wishful thinking; as if you can turn back the clock in time and go back to the good old days when physicians could practice medicine without the burdens of out of control billing and EMR demands.

Your generation has inherited the reigns, and you got into this mess by physicians keeping themselves separate from other industries.

Insurance companies took over medicine, and meanwhile, physicians were seeing patients, writing notes and faxing orders.

We assumed that if you were providing excellent patient care, the rest would fall in line, and the work would speak for itself.

Fast forward, and here we are. Part of what’s gotten you off track in medicine is the dehumanization of patients and doctors.

By sharing your stories, you remind the public that you are human too.

You have successes and failures, tragedies and triumphs. You are human.

Doctors can serve patients, be professional, and make your opinions known.

In fact, it’s your duty, and your profession depends on it.


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