Physicians, Patients and Facebook?!

We knew it was bound to happen. Patients now say that they want to communicate with their physician via Facebook. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we have often talked about how important it is to thoughtfully and carefully use and manage electronic communication (especially social media) in a physician’s practice, especially when it comes to patients and patient information.

Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health recently conducted a national survey of 2,252 pharmacy customers about their interest in using Facebook, email and their physician’s website for communication. The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Here are some of the key findings:

-57% of respondents said they were interested in using Facebook and email to communicate with their physicians and manage their healthcare

-37% of patients said that they had contacted their physicians via email in the last six months

-18% of patients said that they had contacted their physicians via Facebook in the last six months

-More than 50% of respondents said that they wanted to access health information via their physicians’ website

As you’d guess, younger people were more interested in these modes of communication than older people. So, this trend is likely to continue and possibly increase. Thus, there’s a balance that needs to be found. Physicians need to be able to communicate with patients in the ways that they want to be communicated with, but it needs be done appropriately, ethically, and safely for all parties involved. And, as a result, we are starting to see more and more electronic systems for doctor-patient communication, messaging, accessing test results, etc being developed. All physicians would benefit from carefully evaluating their electronic communication practices and investigate if alternative, specially-designed practice communication tools might be for them.

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