My Opinion Social Media and Health

Patients Abuse the Internet

Most of the time I write about information about regarding macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.  As many of you remember, I am very interested in persuading more docs to do the same, that is, provide credible health information on the Internet.

An article in Reuter’s claims that over 50% of Americans turned to the Internet for health information last year.  Way to go!  At the same time, fewer than 5% ever bothered to email their own doctor.

As more and more people are turning to the Internet for health information, I am hopeful more and more doctors will meet you there by providing solid, credible health information.

Docs are resistant to using the Internet.  There are misgivings at several layers.  Basically, docs don’t want to give away their expertise and are afraid of getting sued by offering medical advice that may be… well, wrong.  But they don’t have to give away advice as patients are looking for information…not opinion.

The difference between information and advice is that information is factual.  Advice is an opinion.   Doctors get information and advice mixed up.  I believe patients search the Internet for health information for the same reason we want to know about world news…they just want to know.  They want information about a disease or sickness.

People crave information.  The single biggest activity that occurs everyday on the Internet is “search.”  People are constantly searching, or “Googling,” for information.  But I don’t think patients are looking for advice.

Clinical judgment is what keeps doctors special.  Clinical judgment arises as a result of melding together facts with patient experience.  I support doctors publishing facts.  Clinical judgment entails an exam that can NOT be facilitated over the Internet…ergo, there should be nothing to fear.

Clinical judgment does not exist on the Internet, it will always be what keeps a doctor “unique.”

What Does This Mean? This means that doctors, and other health authorities, really should feel free to publish credible health information.  Information does not mean you are giving advice, opinion or treatment.  There really aren’t any liability issues.

From a public health perspective, the more good information on the web, the more likely someone will seek medical attention.

This web site is intended to be a single source of information about diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.  There should be more like it.  There is no abuse.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.

Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist
Fairfax, Virginia

Social Media and Health

Social Media for a Medical Practice

When I started this blog/web site in April, I had a good idea of what I wanted to say, but I had no idea how a blog and social media would work together. Yesterday, I addressed over 60 eye doctors at a local continuing education conference. I discussed how I envision social media helping doctors and their patients by providing both with relevant and credible health information.

My “slideshare” presentation is available for viewing on the home page of this site.

Social media for patients with diabetes and macular degeneration will prove to be a powerful tool and lead to improvements in health care. This is my hope.

Examples of social media include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Slideshare, etc. While not an expert on social media, I believe I do recognize a powerful component of social media. The ability for one person to communicate with one or thousands simultaneously, in real time, and on a level playing field is the most important attribute of social media. Social media allows one person to share his/her thoughts, thereby sending an endorsement about a product or issue (be it positive or negative) to everyone that cares to “listen.”

Social media’s “value” may be understood in the following example. In social media, people tend to “listen” or to “follow” what other people are doing. People get “to know” other people by listening and following about other’s activities, interests, comments, etc.  Social media is like going to a gigantic cocktail party. At a cocktail party are dozens of conversations going on at the same time. Social media allows you to follow all of the these conversations at once, and, if you desire, you may join these conversations to add your own two cents.

Let’s move on.  If I tell you that I saw a movie/DVD from “Blockbuster” yesterday, and you and I usually have the same tastes for movies, what do you think you’ll do next time you want to rent a DVD?  Not only will you look up that title, but you’ll probably go to the same DVD store I do.  Why?  Because I endorsed the movie and told you were you were likely to find it!  You followed my recommendation.

Much the same is true about social media.  Now, let’s say both you and I have diabetic eye disease or macular degeneration.  Let’s say I found this really great web site about diabetic retinopathy.  Wouldn’t you go?  Sure you would.  You know me and respect my tastes just as I respect yours.

Okay, back to real life.  I have created this web site for two reasons;

1.  Build a Virtual Community:  I want to create a web site that offers relevance to the topics of macular degeneration and diabetic retionpathy.  I want to create a credible source of information (a web site about retinal disease written by a retinal specialist).

2.  Build a Local Community:  I want to create web site for my actual patients and their “non-retina” physicians, such as primary care phyicians, internists, family docs and endocrinologists, as well as other “non-retina specialist” eye doctors.  My feeling is that everyone’s level of knowledge will be increased.  As Sy Syms said, “an educated consumer is our best customer.”

Why social media? The internet is rampant.  Everyone uses it for “information”  credible or otherwise.  I believe healthcare will be better served as more credible information is published, but there is a problem.  Doctors are not too internet savvy.

More tomorrow.


Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retina Specialist

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