Louisville Medicine Volume 69, Issue 8 - Page 16



Like it or not , many of our patients are turning to social media for medical information . Social media has become a health resource , more so in the recent past due to the coronavirus pandemic . The World Health Organization identified the coronavirus as the first true social media “ infodemic ,” defined as “ an overabundance of information - some accurate and some not - that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it .”

The pandemic has taught us that social media misinformation is very real and very dangerous . In today ’ s climate , it is our responsibility as physicians to acknowledge this threat and combat online health misinformation . This can be done in the office , face-to-face , when a patient brings up information they have heard online . It can also be done by creating a social media presence .
Having a social media presence can ensure that you control what your patients see about you , your practice and about your specialty online . Productive social media use can help better inform the general public and can be a valuable contribution to public health .
When generating social media content , consider these tips :
1 . Know your goal : Is your plan to employ social media as an educational tool for your patients and viewers ? To inspire ? To create an online source of connection for your patients ? All of the above ? Knowing your goal will allow you to post content that is relevant to your audience .
2 . No medical advice : Despite making it clear that these accounts are for information and entertainment , invariably there will be requests for personal medical advice , either from your own patients because they feel it ’ s faster than going through the office , or from social media followers . Giving specific advice out of a desire to be helpful can lead to legal , ethical and privacy-related dilemmas . Be clear on your boundaries .
3 . Avoid medical misinformation : When posting content , it is important to consider whether your source is reputable ( peer-reviewed medical journal or society ) or is offering claims too good to be true . Read up on reporting biases and check your own biases as well . By presenting medical information online as a physician , you have an air of authority and therefore a responsibility to ensure your content is accurate and evidence-based .
4 . Have fun : Ultimately , people engage with social media because it resonates with them in some way , encourages , inspires , motivates , entertains or spreads joy . Being your authentic self will show in your posts and create a better connection , allowing you to educate more effectively .
Social media health messaging is a crusade that is here to stay . Diplomatic discourse is tricky , especially when confined to brief video clips and character limits , but it can be done successfully .
Dr . Sohi is a practicing gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Health Partners . She can be found on social media on Instagram and Clubhouse @ sunanasohi . md .