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Looking Back: Facebook in Healthcare

Posted on August 1, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Today I decided that I’d start regularly doing a series of blog posts called Looking Back. In this blog post series I’ll look back at some of my popular (and maybe some not so popular) blog posts I’ve written and see how it holds up today. Have things changed? Were we totally wrong? Did we forget those lessons? I’ve done this on occasion, but with over 12,000 blog posts I think I want to make this a regular feature. There’s a lot of value in looking back at old posts and remembering where we came from and how things have changed.

Today’s “Looking Back” post was published in October 2014 and was titled Facebook in Healthcare. I’ll wait here while you go and read the post.

Now that you’ve read the post…

It’s fascinating for us to think about Facebook in healthcare. Especially with what we now know about people using Facebook to influence elections and other nefarious things. It’s sad, because those same people could have used Facebook to do some good things for healthcare, but they didn’t. That’s not to say that there aren’t some good Facebook healthcare groups that provide value for patients. There are, but they aren’t really stuff that Facebook has been working on as a specific product.

What’s crazy is that even back in 2014 when I wrote the previous post, I suggested that many people didn’t trust Facebook with our health info. Today that’s true times 10. That said there are still a lot of people that would have no problem sharing health info on Facebook as well. It’s amazing to think about the separation between the people who would still share pretty much anything on Facebook and those who don’t want to use Facebook for anything.

What’s surprising today is that the post didn’t even look at other big companies that are now becoming big players in healthcare. I mentioned Google which was just starting back into healthcare after the failure of Google Health. However, I don’t think even back then I would have been able to predict all of the healthcare things that Google is doing through Alphabet.

The other big company that wasn’t mentioned at all is Amazon. Back in 2014, I can’t even remember Amazon being mentioned in any healthcare conversations. That’s not true today where it seems like Amazon is mentioned in almost every healthcare conversation.

Looking at things as they are now, I think Amazon will be a big player in healthcare and will have a big impact on it. However, they’re going to do it in new ways. They’re going to create new opportunities and new gateways to healthcare and healthcare services. If we look back on this post 4 years from now I think we’ll have had no idea of the ways Amazon will impact healthcare. I think of all the big tech companies out there, Amazon will have a bigger impact on healthcare than others like Apple, Google, Samsung, etc.

What’s your take on these big companies impacting healthcare? Which ones do you think will be effective and in what ways? We’ll look back on this post in 4 years and see if we’re right.

Top 10 Blog Posts on EMR and EHR from 2017

Posted on January 4, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As we kick off 2018, I thought it would be fun to look back at the top 10 blog posts (based on views) in 2017 for EMR and EHR. It’s always great to see what people found interesting and which topics were of interest to readers. Plus, I’m always fascinated to see what old articles are still of interest to people. Not to mention, to look at what has changed since the article was written.

Facebook in Healthcare – What’s amazing about this blog post is that it’s from 2014. Looking back 3+ years later, I haven’t really seen Facebook become a big player in healthcare. Sure, there are plenty of patient groups on Facebook, but it’s not really a Facebook product. Facebook has done a number of things in healthcare over the years to get the word out about organ donation and things like that, but I currently don’t see them as a big player in healthcare the same way Amazon, Google, and Apple are looking at healthcare.

What the EMR Industry Can Learn From Facebook – Amazing that another article about Facebook was in the Top 10 and this one from 2012 was written by Priya Ramchandran. Her vision of a world where a patients health record was just automatically pushed down to a server every time we have a health encounter has been far from realized. The challenge of the comparison for me is that Facebook has a reason to push all that data together. In healthcare, there are reasons why organizations don’t want to push the data out to the patient. Until we change those reasons, we won’t see this vision despite hundreds of companies efforts to try and accomplish it. Yes, even Apple is working on solving this problem now and I think they’ll fail.

Epic Launches FHIR-Based App Platform – Epic’s launch of the Epic App Orchard platform was big news in 2017. I’ll admit that I’m still a bit skeptical about Epic App Orchard. Many herald it as Epic opening up their EHR to developers. I personally am skeptical and fear that it’s really just making public the connections they were already creating and is more PR than anything. Epic App Orchard isn’t a truly open API that would allow innovators and entrepreneurs to build on top of the Epic EHR. Plus, I fear that Epic App Orchard is just a new revenue stream for Epic. Those are my fears that I’ll be exploring as I talk to people in 2018 about it.

Publicly Traded Health IT Companies – I wouldn’t have thought of this blog post as one that would have garnered a lot of attention. Maybe that means we should do more work covering the publicly traded healthcare IT companies on this blog. They seem to be increasingly dominating the landscape.

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Medical Ethics and the Machine Revolution – One of the great additions to EMR and EHR this year was Janae Sharp and this blog post was an excellent example of her work. Understanding the impact of AI in healthcare is going to be an extremely important topic over the next decade. I’m glad she kicked off the conversation since it’s a challenging one. I still keep thinking about the question she asked, “Can a machine learn empathy?” Chew on that one for a while.

EHR Innovation & Regulation: Friends or Foes? – I’m really glad that this post by Stephen Dart from AdvancedMD did so well. I think most doctors don’t appreciate the challenging situation EHR vendors are in when it comes to balancing compliance and innovation. I believe it’s the core of what’s wrong with most EHR software out there and contributes to a lot of physician burnout.

Is Cerner Edging Up On Epic? – This post was from 2016, but the question is still a good one. The reality is that both Cerner and Epic are doing amazingly well. I don’t see anything on the horizon that’s going to change it. Both of them are behemoths that are doing incredibly well. I don’t really see either of them cutting into the progress of the other either. What do you think?

Is Your Health Data Unstructured? – Enabling an AI Powered Healthcare Future – I still love the insight shared in this article. Technology doesn’t solve your problems. Technology amplifies your current state. If you’re doing a good job, technology will accelerate the good. If you’re doing poorly on something, technology will accelerate and amplify the bad.

#HIMSS17 Mix Tape – This is just a fun post leading into HIMSS that Colin has done every year with us for a lot of years. The exciting part is that when Colin posted this he was still working at a Healthcare IT vendor. We’re lucky to now have him formally as part of the Healthcare Scene team. I’m quite sure Colin will be doing a #HIMSS18 Mix Tape shortly. So, if you have suggestions, reach out to him on Twitter.

12 Reasons Why EMRs Improve Patient Care – How amazing that this post from 2011 is still doing so well. I imagine it’s because so many people are trying to understand the value of the EHR. Especially as it related to improving patient care. This post really deserves a future dedicated blog post to look at the 12 ways EMR improve patient care and how many of them have been realized. I’ll put it on my to-do list for 2018.

There you have it. The top 10 blog posts on EMR and EHR for 2017. It’s always fun to look back and see what’s changed and what’s stayed the same. Thanks to each of you for reading and supporting the work we do here. Now on to an awesome 2018!

Facebook in Healthcare

Posted on October 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A story on Reuters reported late last week that Facebook is making an entry into the healthcare space. Here’s an excerpt from the article about Facebook’s plans for healthcare:

The company is exploring creating online “support communities” that would connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments. A small team is also considering new “preventative care” applications that would help people improve their lifestyles.

In recent months, the sources said, the social networking giant has been holding meetings with medical industry experts and entrepreneurs, and is setting up a research and development unit to test new health apps. Facebook is still in the idea-gathering stage, the people said.

This move is especially interesting when paired with the announcements of Apple Health, Samsung Health, and Google Fit (and a few other Google health initiatives like Calico). It’s not the first time that big corporations have seen an opportunity in healthcare (See Microsoft HealthVault and Google Health). However, we have yet to see any of these big corporations really make a dent on healthcare.

The reality for many of these large corporations is that they don’t realize the crazy complexities that exist in healthcare. Many like to site the healthcare privacy argument as a reason for their failure. No doubt, HIPAA and privacy are a challenge for these organizations. In fact, I can already hear the outcry of people talking about Facebook and privacy of their health data. Many don’t trust Facebook with privacy and with good reason. However, privacy is the least of the reasons why these big corporations have a challenge entering the healthcare space.

Remember that healthcare is a complex beast with the largest customer being the government (ie. Medicare and Medicaid). Healthcare is not a rational market. The government, employer owned health insurance, health insurance plans, etc etc etc all make healthcare extremely complex to navigate full of perverse incentives. Plus, how do you do an ROI on the value of saving someone’s life?

While I’m skeptical of any large corporation entering healthcare, I’m actually quite interested in what Facebook could do to help healthcare. No doubt, a lot of healthcare already exists on Facebook.

Just a few weeks ago I was running up an escalator to catch a flight and sliced my big toe from top to bottom (you should see the pics). Luckily TSA was really helpful and I made my flight. Once I got home, I assessed the damage and wasn’t sure if I should go get sutures or not. I turned to Facebook where I posted a picture of my toe and tagged a few of my doctor friends. Long story short, my doctor friends told me I should go to the doctor and quickly, because if I waited until the next day they wouldn’t be able to suture it.

This is a small example, but Facebook was really effective for me. In fact, I posted a follow up picture a few days later (you know how men always like to show off their scars) and a doctor friend told me it was healing well. Of course, many might say that it was a small flesh wound and so that’s not as big a deal to post on Facebook. Would I post me health details if I had some chronic condition?

The interesting thing is that chronic patients are more than happy to give up all privacy in search of a cure. Unfortunately, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s part of the reason why Patients Like Me has been so successful. Plus, Patients Like Me has proved that we want to take part in online support communities for our conditions.

We’ll see if Facebook can really execute on online support communities like they have on Patients Like Me. It will be a real challenge for them because it’s not the focus of the company. However, they’re obviously well connected to a lot of people that could and would benefit from these types of healthcare communities. No doubt many people on Facebook don’t visit or even know about sites like Patients Like Me.

I’ll be interested to see what Facebook does in this space. I think they’d be smart to roll it off into a separate product that focuses on things like privacy and security. Being tied to the Facebook brand is a huge liability in this case. Plus, the value of Facebook to a Facebook created healthcare community is not in the Facebook brand, but in the Facebook audience and reach.

Besides creating various healthcare communities similar to Patients Like Me, I think Facebook has a huge opportunity to use social pressure to influence healthcare decisions. Changing behavior is an extremely hard thing to accomplish. However, never underestimate the power of positive peer pressure. Peer pressure can be one of the most powerful ways to change people’s behavior. Unfortunately, it works for good and bad. Facebook has all of your peers mapped to you. Can Facebook use that to help you become healthier? If they can, they’ll be on to something.

What do you think of Facebook possibly entering healthcare?

Social Networking Your Way to Better Healthcare Business Relationships

Posted on November 6, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

With everyone walking around with a smartphone or tablet, tweeting, updating, posting, sharing quite possibly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the time has never been better – it’s never been easier – to jump into social networking. And looking at it from the healthcare perspective, there has never been a better time to share ideas, give opinions, pontificate, or sound off on the variety of healthcare issues we have to talk about today.

The opportunity is better than ever to create thought leadership by starting or joining in online conversations, and personal branding is easier than ever before in terms of tools available to help you spread your message and increase your exposure.

So with that being said, I’ll share a bit of my story as to how I’ve used social networking to create a personal brand, and open myself up to opportunities and business relationships that I might otherwise not have been exposed to.

My favorite social network is Twitter. I like it because it’s quick – 140 characters seems to be about my limit. I was very late to the Facebook party, and got on it only because at the time I couldn’t manage a brand page without a personal account. I still think Facebook can be a major time waster, and so I use it only to share news of my family with other family members and close friends.

Anyhow, my Twitter addiction really started during my second maternity leave. I spent a lot of time in a rocking chair, figuring out how to keep up with my professional colleagues while I was out of the corporate loop. I began to gain a small following, began doing the mommy blog thing, and went to a networking event or to just to keep myself relevant.

When I went back to working full time, my boss was gracious enough to go with my idea of using Twitter as part of our B2B healthcare marketing program. And this is where my brief story gets somewhat tangled, because at this point, my personal and professional social networking became very intertwined. I had my personal Twitter account, two business accounts, two Facebook pages, and personal and corporate LinkedIn accounts to manage.

At first I was what you’d consider a lurker. I hung out on Twitter and in various LinkedIn healthcare groups just to see how they worked, what the rules of etiquette were. Then as I got more confident in my knowledge of the industry, I began participating – posting comments, responding to people’s tweets, hoping that I sounded knowledgeable. And my following continued to grow. I began noticing that as I started sharing more healthcare-related content, more healthcare-related folks started following me.

I have a journalism degree from the University of Georgia, so I was creating blogs and articles for Porter Research and Billian’s HealthDATA, and sharing them out through my professional and personal social accounts, which also gave me some street cred. Eventually, I had unsolicited offers to blog for EMRandEHR.com. I jumped on that because it lets me flex my writing muscles, and reach an audience I might not otherwise get in front of. My activity, and especially my consistency within healthcare social networking continues to open up opportunities for me.

Now, all this wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t love what I’m doing. I love the opportunity social networking affords me to educate myself about healthcare, and especially to turn online relationships into real-life encounters.

So, as I mentioned, I have a favorite social network, and I believe one of the keys to successful social networking is using the platform that best aligns with your goals and desired audience – the social network that suits your tastes. Start with one that best suits you, your goals and the audience you’re trying to reach. Whether you’re just trying to educate yourself about a certain part of your industry, looking to connect with peers and other thought leaders, or perhaps even looking for new opportunities, make sure the social network lines up with your objectives. Start small, be consistent in your approach and in the folks you correspond with.  You’ll notice your personal brand evolving, almost organically.

EMR Notes, EMR Data Visualization, Amazon EC2, and Amazing Facebook EMR Integration

Posted on October 21, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It’s time again for a roundup of interesting EMR tweets. The last one is a doozy and an amazing reason to keep up on Twitter (or at least read this site…We follow tweets so you don’t have to!).


This is a sad thing to say about EMR notes. Although, I think that this tweet is a small part of a larger “revolt” against many of the cookie cutter, little value notes that are produced by many EMR software. Change is afoot in this regard, but it will take some time to get there.


I love when a company takes on EMR data visualization. We need to discover much better, more efficient ways for healthcare practitioners to be able to process increasing amounts of health data. I hope that Restful Health is successful. Plus, they’re right that doing it from multiple health data sources is much harder.


Is Amazon EC2 HIPAA compliant? I can think of some ways to get it there, but they require a whole lot of encryption to make it happen. I expect most don’t go to this effort. Thoughts?


This was a fascinating tweet for me. Far too many people mention Facebook and EMR or PHR and start to freak out. What an amazing idea to use Facebook and other social or web sources to inform the care that’s provided to a patient. I’m sure that many people will hop all over this talking about privacy issues, but I’d rather deal with those issues than deal with a patient that’s lying is causing them not to get the care they need. I wonder what other ways the web and social media could inform patient care.

What the EMR Industry Can Learn From Facebook

Posted on April 9, 2012 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

A couple of interesting posts on RangelMD.com caught my eye (one of them by way of KevinMD, but I’ve learned to go to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, for everything I read on KevinMD). In his first post on a Facebook model for EMR, Chris Rangel takes us through a generic history of the Internet – right from the days when you had to manually connect to a server through the green-on-black Bulletin Board Services and modem in order to access any information. Apparently servers were not connected to one another and you had to hangup the connection in order to server hop.

(If I sound clueless about this, well, I grew up in India where circa 1995, some kind of UNIX based primitive mail system was all the rage, and since my friends and I didn’t really know anyone outside our immediate circles who had access to “electronic mail”, our forays consisted of sitting in adjacent terminals and mailing each other funny jokes.)

And then came the evolution of HTML and dynamic server content, and so on, till we finally reached the clouds, literally. Ours is an age where most of the information we use resides on a server somewhere and the mode of accessing them is through apps or browsers.

Using Facebook as an example, Rangel explains why we would want our EMR systems to work the same way – our health records should be automatically pushed down to a server every time we have a healthcare encounter. For physicians or pharmacists, all they would need to do is to access our information through a browser or an app on a tablet. In theory, this should make for more efficient healthcare encounters, higher sharing of information, and easy switches from one doctor’s office or facility to another.

Healthcare utopia, no? No. At least not yet.

We have so much more work to do before communication between health silos in various doc offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs etc is truly functional. If 90s style browser wars (where did Netscape go?) and the social networking wars (FB, MySpace, Diapsora, Hot or Not) are anything to go by, the winner of the healthcare battles may not be the one or two well-known entities that dominate the market today, but disruptive companies that are currently developing something we deem frivolous now, but which may hold the key to our digihealth future.

$2 Million More for Practice Fusion EHR

Posted on January 13, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

News travels fast on Twitter and I couldn’t help but notice this tweet about Practice Fusion raising another $2 million.

You can see the full press release from Practice Fusion about the new funding here. Here’s the most important section of the release:

Stremel, who led Facebook’s mobile efforts, joins existing investors Ali Partovi, angel investor and co-founder of LinkExchange, and Hadi Partovi, angel investor and co-founder of Tellme, in the current investment. Including the $23 million Series B round of financing led by Founders Fund in 2011, Practice Fusion has raised over $38 million in total funding with investments from Band of Angels, Felicis Ventures and others.

Considering this is only a $2 million investment, this seems more like a strategic investor as opposed to Practice Fusion needing some extra cash. Considering the mobile experience of these investors you can easily see this being Practice Fusion moving aggressively into the mobile space. It could be a smart move since past efforts by Practice Fusion to go mobile have basically been a flop.

Social Media

Posted on October 27, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you realize, I’m a huge fan of social media. Certainly social media isn’t without its risks, but that’s true about almost everything in life. I’ve found if you stick to doing and saying things that you would do in public, then you don’t have to fear social media. Instead, you can embrace all the benefits.

One of the biggest challenges we know face with social media is which social media you should use. There are far too many social media sites. In fact, it seems like almost any site that comes out today has some element of social in it. On that note, which social media websites should you use? The answer is different for everyone, but here’s how I use social media.

Twitter – I put this one first, because I think it’s the one that I use most. You can find my healthcare IT tweets on @techguy and @ehrandhit. I’m very active on both accounts. I use @techguy for lots of things that are not EMR or health IT related. The way I look at it is that @techguy is me and @ehrandhit is my EMR and Healthcare IT Twitter profile. Although, many of my EMR and healthcare IT friends/colleagues know me as @techguy. That’s fine with me as well.

The thing I like most about Twitter is the people you connect with on it. Sure, if you look through my stream you’ll see me interacting with a lot of people. Turns out I interact with even more through the private messages. Plus, Twitter is where I start a lot of relationships which then get taken to other means of communication that go beyond 140 characters.

Before I leave Twitter, just remember that Twitter is what you make it. If you want it to be about every time you eat something, then it will be that. If you want it to be something more, it can be that too. I see Twitter as a long term investment in networking. I can’t tell you how valuable it is.

LinkedIn – You can find my profile on LinkedIn here. However, if you think that LinkedIn is about those profiles, then you’re missing out on the best part of LinkedIn. Those profiles are an important feature of LinkedIn, but far from the meat of what’s great. In fact, when LinkedIn was just profiles you could barely consider it a social network. Back then it really was all about finding a job, hiring people and other recruiting related tasks. If it was still that way, I’d almost never visit LinkedIn.

Turns out, LinkedIn has done an amazing job at leveraging these trusted profiles into a really interesting professional social network. I know that many of you are part of the Healthcare Scene group on LinkedIn. My only wish was that I started it sooner. The thing I love most about the groups on LinkedIn is that any comments you add are tied to your profile. So, when you say something I can take a quick look at your background to gain a better understanding of your point of view. We’re all influenced by our background and experience and so it’s great to have a LinkedIn profile tied to what you say so people can understand some of what’s influenced you.

Facebook – I actually love Facebook and use it quite extensively. Although, I don’t use it that much for business. Sure we have an EMR and HIPAA facebook group that does quite well. In fact, it indicates that I might be in the minority as far as not really using Facebook for business since so many people use that group. I do love Facebook for connecting with friends and family that are now all over the world. That’s why I stick with it for personal instead of business, but business does creep on there sometimes.

Google+ – I’m still debating my use of Google Plus. If you look at my profile you’ll see that I tested it out a lot out of the gate and then have slowed more recently in my use of it. I still think it has potential. I also love the deep conversations you can have on Google Plus. My challenge with Google Plus has been trying to figure out what it does that I can’t do just as well or better with Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook. I’ll keep playing around with it, but I’m not sure it will ever make it into my daily routine.

There you go. As I think about other social network sites I use, I don’t have any others that I really use regularly. Are there any others that you use regularly? I’m always interested in trying out new websites, but I have a feeling it will be hard for any other websites to take down these in my routine. I guess that’s why I think it’s a challenge for any new healthcare related website to crack into someone’s schedule. The one that does will take something special.

I love social media

Posted on July 11, 2011 I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

Shefali Kulkarni recently blogged over at NPR an interesting post “NPR To Friend Or Not: The Facebook Challenge For Doctors.”   It turns out that a majority of doctors, residents and medical students around the U.S. found it “ethically unacceptable to visit the profiles of patients” or interact with patients on social networks for either social or professional reasons.  These findings were recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.  Note was made of the overwhelming pessimistic attitude of those who responded to a survey.

However, I would prefer to be on the optimistic side of history.  Social networking sites are as hot as ever, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon.  People crave social interactions with their friends and, as it seems from my own clinic’s Facebook site, they are not shying away from such interactions with their doctors.  In fact, they genuinely seem to enjoy it.

Most of the concerns on the part of doctors seem to center around HIPAA privacy laws, which I can understand.  However, the AMA’s position statement on social networking seems sufficiently nonspecific and flexible to allow a liberal interpretation of the rules here.  They basically encourage doctors to make wise choices, and I would echo this sentiment.  I’d like to clarify that I’m not telling anyone to go violate HIPAA — just saying that I think you can interact socially online without violating HIPAA.  Patients are free to make statements and ask questions, just like anyone else.  I think doctors should be able to answer questions comfortably themselves in a manner that still maintains their professionalism and privacy.

Now to be honest, it’s clear from some patient statements and questions on my Facebook site that some don’t seem to care much about privacy.  It’s then up to the trained clinician to decide on a case by case basis – big potatoes or small potatoes?  After umpteen years of medical, ethical and scientific training, I think I’ve earned the right to make that decision.

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC.  He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009.  He can be reached at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.