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When Medicine Is Becoming Collaborative: Social Networking Among Health-Care Professionals



In recent years, Wikis, blogs, microblogs, and other social networking platforms have become available to health care professionals facilitating information sharing and interprofessional collaboration. Online health-care provider communities act as “apomediaries” helping users seek, filter, and select relevant information. Interactions with professional peers on these platforms also provide opportunities for sharing, creating, and applying knowledge within their scope of practice. This chapter examines the use of web-based collaborative applications and social networking platforms by health professionals. Specifically, we outline the potential impacts on professional development, collaboration among health-care professionals, professional mentoring and support, and patient outcomes. We identify ways to address use barriers and outline potentials in fostering health-care professionals’ participation and engagement and conclude with future research directions.
When Medicine is Becoming Collaborative: Social Networking Among
Healthcare Professionals
Staying informed on the newest evidence-based practices is necessary for healthcare professionals
(HPCs) and plays a critical role in the quality of care provided (Archambault et al., 2013).
However, remaining up-to-date is becoming more and more of a challenge for HCPs as healthcare
knowledge changes and expands rapidly (McGowan et al., 2012). Tacit knowledge (clinical
experiences, skills, know-how) is of particular importance to enhancing the quality of medical
diagnosis and decisions (Panahi, 2014).
With the development of the Internet, arrays of online resources for healthcare professionals
looking for scientific knowledge and best practices have emerged. Among them, are specialized
medical websites such as Medscape, QuantiaMD, and iMedExchange. Online information can be
accessed in different ways (Labrecque et Beaupré, 2013). The passive approach (push) consists in
registering on various websites to receive email alerts on medical topics such as critical reviews
or better practice suggestions. The second method is active (pull), the user retrieves information
on demand. The third, which we will focus on in this chapter, is interactive and calls for a
discussion of information with colleagues using various tools such as wikis, blogs, open social
networking platforms (e.g., Twitter or Facebook) and online professional networks. Use of these
resources for information sharing as a part of continuing educational activities or discussing
clinical issues is growing (Georges, Roviniak et Kraschnewski, 2013). Informal communication
among colleagues (oral or written) is not a new phenomenon; it is rooted in the medical culture
(Kuo, 1998). When looking for new medical developments or when caring for a patient with severe
problems, clinicians will often turn to peers and colleagues (Haug, 1997). Social media websites
and web-based applications offer new potentials for supporting informal communication, allowing
for the rapid dissemination of information to a broad audience (Ellison and boyd, 2013).
Understanding how everyday communication practices take place online is essential.
This chapter examines the professional use of social networking websites and applications in
healthcare practices. We outline the reasons HCPs use social media and examine the potential
impacts on professional development, collaboration, mentoring, and patient outcomes. We then
identify the factors that enable an active participation in these networks as well as ways to address
identified use barriers. We conclude by suggesting future research directions.
1 How and why do healthcare professionals use social media to communicate
with peers?
1.1 Professional social media use is on the rise
Social media use by health professionals has increased in the past decade (George, Rovniak and
Kraschnewski, 2013; Hamm et al., 2013; Antheunis, Tates and Nieboer, 2013). Social Media
websites and applications can be used for social or professional networking (Facebook, Twitter,
LinkedIn), media sharing (YouTube), content production (blogs), collaborative writing and
knowledge aggregation (Wikis and Google Docs), and virtual reality and gaming environment
interactions (George, Rovniak and Kraschnewski, 2013; Hamm et al., 2013; Antheunis, Tates and
Nieboer, 2013). Healthcare professionals can also access information and interact with peers on
specialized professional online communities developed by healthcare organizations, professional
associations, healthcare and pharmaceutical companies or as part of ongoing research projects.
Such networks are commonly restricted to targeted professions (George, Rovniak and
Kraschnewski, 2013; Hamm et al., 2013; Antheunis, Tates and Nieboer, 2013). Studies that
evaluate the use of social media by HCPs are of variable quality (Ross et al., 2016). An online US
survey of 4000 connected physicians (with access to computers and mobile technology) conducted
by QuantiaMD, found that more than 90% of the doctors surveyed use social media websites and
web-based applications for personal purposes with Facebook topping the list of website use.
Moreover, 65% of the physicians used some form of social media for professional purposes,
chiefly online physician communities (28%), LinkedIn (17%) and Facebook (15%) (Modahl,
Tompsett and Moorhead, 2011). Online media is now the preferred information source for health
profession students whose rates of social media use are found to be over 90%, a fact not so
surprising, as most of them have grown up in a technologically socially mediated world (Brown,
Ryan, and Harris, 2014; Usher et al., 2014; Giordano et Giordano, 2011; George, Rovniak and
Kraschnewski, 2013). However, social media use varies widely among HCPs, between age cohorts
and across practice settings (Adilman et al., 2016), but most studies have focused on physicians
and nurses (Rolls et al., 2016). There are also national differences. A survey conducted in 2012
and involving 6700 physicians in European countries, the USA, Japan, Brazil, India, China and
Russia showed that the use of social media and online physician communities for professional
networking is much more developed in emerging countries, the UK, Germany, and the USA than
it is in Italy or France (Cegedim Strategic Data, 2012).
What motivates social media use by HCPs is also varied. A qualitative study conducted among 22
physicians around the world revealed six critical adoption factors: staying connected with
colleagues, reaching out and networking with the wider community, sharing knowledge, engaging
in continued medical training, benchmarking, and branding (Panahi, 2014). These motivations are
examined in the following sections.
1.2 Using social media to address information overload
Finding and sharing medical information online regarding issues relevant to their field and staying
updated on evidence-based practice guidelines has become very popular, especially among the
younger physicians (Almaiman et al., 2015). Online resources act as “apomediaries” helping users
seek, filter and select relevant information (Eysenbach, 2003). Following what colleagues are
sharing and discussing among themselves is likewise an effective way of addressing informational
overload as well as being one of HPCs’ most popular activities on open and restricted social
networks. (Antheunis, 2013). Through Twitter, for instance, healthcare workers can quickly find
peer-reviewed information (Panahi, 2014). Social media also facilitates tacit and experiential
information exchange such as clinical experiences or practical tips. They enable the sharing of
information through stories that are “usually carriers of profound contextual understanding,
knowledge, and experience that a person shares with other people in very simple language”
(Panahi, 2014). As Grindrod et al. (2014) point out; social media have reintroduced the power of
patient stories and anecdotes that are included in the making of collective medical knowledge.
1.3 Social media use for professional education
Likewise, social media tools are increasingly used for educational purposes and, especially so, by
medical students (George, Rovniak and Kraschnewski, 2013). In some US pharmacy programs
students are provided access to course material on Facebook, which seems to be their preferred
option (Grindrod et al., 2014). Social media also offer access to information that complements
those offered in the traditional medical school curricula, and this knowledge has the benefit of
being retrievable on demand (Cartledge, Miller, and Phillips, 2013). In a qualitative study on
Twitter use by medical students, participants reported that the active use of Twitter provided them
with access to corresponding information, enabling them to increase their learning opportunities
through the sharing of articles and study techniques, while connecting, outside of the classroom,
with students and instructors sharing similar interests (Chretien et al., 2015). These students were
also able to reach experts they might not have been able to otherwise. However, such benefits were
only observed among the active users of Twitter, which represented a minority in the study.
Another qualitative study focusing on the use of collaborative writing applications such as Google
Docs by medical residents cited that learning consolidation was the main advantage of using social
media, but at the same time revealed that motivating residents to contribute to these platforms or
applications was a challenge (Archambault et al., 2009). While feedback from users is positive,
more evidence on the effectiveness of social media use for educational purposes is needed
(Cartledge et al., 2013).
1.4 Asking for advice from peers online
Seeking medical advice at the point of care is another often-mentioned objective for utilizing social
networking platforms and participating in specialized online communities. Healthcare
professionals are progressively turning to social media to connect with peers and colleagues when
they have questions regarding diseases, diagnoses, or treatment options. Social media is especially
useful as it provides the opportunity to exchange texts, photos, and videos. On restricted password
protected networks intended for HCPs only, these contents can be exchanged securely.
Crowdsourced social networked answers to clinical questions likewise seem effective in providing
expert advice rapidly. For particular healthcare specialties, such as clinicians requiring information
during infectious disease outbreaks, accessing information in real-time is critical (Goff, Kullar,
and Newland, 2015). In addition to using their personal computer to access information, many
HCPs are now using their mobile devices. Studies conducted in emergency departments show that
such devices enable HCPs to retrieve information in varying environments and times, while
“fitting better” within the daily workflow (Curran and Abidi, 2007). By providing exchange
opportunities between organizations, social media use can also reduce the professional isolation
experienced by HCPs working in rural areas (Rolls et al., 2014). It also updates HCPs on the
various ways of practicing medicine around the world allowing them to benchmark the most
efficient ones (Panahi, 2014).
1.5 Collaborative knowledge development
Collaborative platforms offer the opportunity to develop and apply knowledge embedded in use.
This practice mirrors the concept of Communities of Practice where participants organized around
a common purpose engage in a process of collaboration and reflective practice (Wenger, 1998). In
the healthcare field, collaborative platforms and web-based writing applications such as wikis
allow users to create online content that can be accessed or edited by professionals within specific
health departments or by anyone wanting to contribute if the wiki is not restricted. Such tools show
potential for updating evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and optimizing clinical practice
(Archambault et al., 2013). For example, they can be used at the point of care to store and update
protocols within emergency departments (Archambault et al., 2013). Social media can also
facilitate healthcare research project collaborations as well as enable access to study results.
Platforms such as Twitter expand professional and scientific audiences, contributing to the
dissemination of knowledge on a global scale (Goff, Kullar, and Newland, 2015).
1.6 Understanding the broader healthcare context and the patient’s perspective
Social media offers HCPs and students the opportunity to discuss controversial healthcare issues,
health policies or healthcare reforms with other caregivers and health sector actors (including
patients), developing a better understanding of the context in which they practice healthcare
(Chretien et al., 2015).
Social media, especially health blogs, Twitter or forums allow clinicians access to the patient’s
perspective, changing the way they see and do medicine (Chretien et al., 2015). Through blogs,
chronic patients and family caregivers share their illnesses and everyday life experiences,
including interactions with the healthcare systems, giving meaning to their experiences. A patient’s
disease narrative is crucial to understanding and contextualizing the lived experience of being ill.
This key healthcare dimension can be very helpful in improving communication between HCPs
and their patients, and, especially, in promoting reflective practices and empathy. It also helps
clinicians better understand the way patients navigate the healthcare system, enabling them to
direct patients towards the best resources (Batt-Rawden, et al., 2014).
1.7 Building a meaningful professional identity
Sharing a profile on social media is, furthermore, used for “personal branding” reasons serving to
establish one’s professional status and credibility while developing partnership opportunities and
interprofessional collaborations (Panahi, 2014). Social networking platforms offer spaces where
HCPs can discuss with peers about their practice experiences (Lagu et al., 2008). Blogs are
especially popular. These types of online publications are easy to produce, and the information
published is more inviting and accessible than those found in academic journals. Additionally, they
allow HCPs to communicate their stories and to express their views and feelings in alternative
manners. They can address the doubts, fears, and frustrations experienced in their daily practice
(Vartabedian, Amos and Baruch, 2011). Participation on open networking platforms such as
Twitter also contributes to a professional sense of meaning and community (Chretien et al., 2015)
and promotes interest and passion for patient care (Batt-Rawden, et al., 2014).
Healthcare professionals differ in their use of social media, but a common outcome is a noticeable
change in the way they interact and learn. While the reasons HCPs use social media vary, the main
benefits seem to be a widening of knowledge networks, access to expertize from colleagues and
peers, and the provision of emotional support (Pereira et al., 2015). Active social media use can
enhance professional practice and judgment and provide better patient care.
2 Barriers to social media use for Health Care Professionals
While social media use among HCPs is growing, studies have reported several barriers to their
adoption. HCPs face several social media adoption challenges (Panahi, 2014), and regular
professional use of social media is still limited especially for microblogging platforms such as
Twitter and wikis (Chretien et al., 2013).
2.1 Privacy issues and liability and litigation concerns
Privacy issues and concerns about liability and litigation are some of the main obstacles. Posting
information, photos or videos on a social networking website can be a breach of patient
confidentiality and could result in legal actions taken against the HCP or his employer (Ventola,
2014). This legal obstacle explains in part the lack of support given to social media use from
regulating bodies and medical schools whose discourse has mainly focused on the risks and ethical
issues that are associated with its practice (George, Rovniak and Kraschnewski, 2013; Grindrod et
al., 2014). Anonymization of personal health information shared on the Internet is one way to
minimize risks, but it can sometimes prove difficult. Information provided in a particular case,
even if anonymous, could still allow for patient identification within the healthcare community
(Ventola, 2014). Communicating through password-restricted communities might be helpful, but
HPC participation in specialized online communities is still limited. Changes in the open social
networking platforms that many HCPs use personally, for example, Facebook’s private groups
offer potential avenues for addressing these privacy issues (George, Rovniak and Kraschnewski,
2013). Another recommendation from regulating bodies is that HCPs draw a strict line between
their personal and professional identities when dealing with patients and peers online by using
separate social media profiles. Although, the line between social and professional use is easily
blurred: if I blog on my nursing practice, is it professional or personal? Some applications (such
as Google + for instance) allow users to tailor their profile information to different audiences
(George, Rovniak and Kraschnewski, 2013). Users might find, nonetheless, that establishing clear
personal/professional profile boundaries is not always the best thing to do. A 2015 study by
Chretien et al. (2013) on Twitter use among medical students showed that participants preferred
using their personal Twitter account to exchange medical and scientific information with
colleagues, emphasizing the importance of being authentic as it proved useful to develop one’s
professional network (Chretien et al., 2013). Concerns over privacy are also an issue in the
classroom as “friending” colleagues or students on Facebook could be considered a violation of
age and gender boundaries (Grindrod et al., 2014).
2.2 Concerns with the quality of information on social medial
The scientific quality of the information resources available on social media is also of concern
among HCPs as these platforms facilitate fast dissemination of information from varying sources
(Panahi, 2014). Sufficient participation on social media platforms improves the quality of the
information offered as incorrect information is flagged, but trust and identifying whom to follow
is a chief concern for many HPCs. In Panahi’s 2014 study, conducted among 22 active social media
user physicians, participants reported establishing trusted online relations first by connecting with
people they knew offline, then by using peer recommended resources, through authenticity, and
by relying on professional standing, and engaging in consistent communication, and lastly, by
favoring non-anonymous posting and moderated websites (Panahi, 2014). Reliability of
information is also an issue on collaborative writing applications because of the lack of traditional
authorship (Archambault et al., 2009).
2.3 Limited time and lack of social media skills
Other barriers and challenges that HCPs experience when using social media include the lack of
skills and self-efficacy to exploit theses online resources efficiently and to deal with information
overload and anarchy (Antheunis et al., 2013; Pereira et al., 2015). Finding time to follow
healthcare issues and topics and post information can also be a problem and some HCPs have
limited access to social media in their place of work. Finally, a lack of understanding of the benefits
that social media use can provide HCPs and a feeling that professional engagement on these
platforms is a waste of time limits their use, especially with older and established HCPs (George,
Rovniak and Kraschnewski, 2014).
3 Addressing social media use barriers
To improve the potential of social media use, researchers have identified several ways to address
the barriers to their use and to foster HCPs participation and engagement on these platforms.
3.1 Guiding social media practice
There is a need to provide HCPs and medical students with directives and clear guidelines to help
them develop the best possible social media practices (Househ, 2013). Faculty should address e-
professionalism and encourage students to reflect on their use of social media (Grindrod et al.,
2014). Professional organizations and regulation bodies should also focus less on social media
misuse and instead develop strategies to use these platforms effectively to communicate with
patients and peers (George, Rovniak, and Kraschnewski, 2013). University curricula, as well as
continuing education programs, should include workshops on HCP social media strategies and
provide institutional credits for participation. One way this could be done is by reaching out and
partnering with non-medical disciplines such as Communication Studies (George, Rovniak, and
Kraschnewski, 2013).
3.2 Encouraging active social media users to act as mentors
Active professional participation on social networks is equally an issue. Compensating established
HCPs leaders for sharing information and for engaging on these platforms (for example, by
providing continuing education credits) would be very useful as the available time HCPs have to
participate on social media is limiting. Their experience can serve as best practice examples for
students and other professionals (George, Rovniak, and Kraschnewski, 2013). Social media can
also be used to strengthen mentoring activities especially for HCPs who subspecialize (Ventola,
2014) as well as encouraging the positive use of these platforms (George, Rovniak, and
Kraschnewski, 2013).
3.3 Using social media will make you a better healthcare professional
Incorporating social media use into healthcare training should target enhancing HCPs’ reflective
practice. Patients’ presence on these platforms is increasing, and this is changing the way they deal
with their health issues as well as the way they interact with HCPs (Thoër, 2013; Grindrod, 2014).
HCPs should take advantage of these patient-focused networks to gain insights on patient
experience and on ways to manage treatments better so that patients can easily adopt them. Social
media also offers great interaction enhancing potential between patients and various professionals.
Because medical knowledge is no longer within the exclusive control of medical experts on social
media, it is crucial that HCPs participate on these platforms (Thoër, 2013; Grindrod, 2014). HCPs
engagement on social networks is critical to improving the quality of health information provided
to the community through the Internet (Ventola, 2014).
Social media use by healthcare professionals is on the rise, but its use is still limited and varies
according to specific professions and practice settings. This relatively slow appropriation of social
media by HCPs can be explained in part by the fact that regulation bodies, medical training centers,
and schools and healthcare organizations have not encouraged their use. Moreover, these practices
may be seen as contrary to the prevailing medical culture, which prioritizes individual and face-
to-face communication, confidentiality, and the formal production and movement of knowledge
(Brown, Ryan and Harris, 2014; George and Green, 2012). Practices are rapidly changing, and the
younger generations are more apt to adopt social media. Several organizations and schools are now
promoting efficient and active use of social media.
The literature suggests that there are several benefits to social media use by HCPs. Among them,
they enhance the sharing of evidence-based and tacit knowledge. Accordingly, their use could
facilitate and accelerate the exchange of informal information that is at the heart of HCPs practices.
Also, as social media can expand connections and networks of relationships as one of their key
features, an increased use by HCPs may foster the development of new contacts and partnerships
between HCPs within a professional domain as well as between domains. There are, however,
legitimate concerns regarding confidentiality, private/public boundaries and the accuracy of online
information. Further research will be needed to understand exactly how it is that social media use
contributes to improved knowledge, skills, and quality of care outcomes as well as healthcare
professionals’ satisfaction (Batt-Rawden et al., 2014; McGowan et al., 2012). So far, research on
social media and HCPs has focused mainly on documenting uses with a marked preference on
doctor-patient communication practices. Examining how and in what contexts the use of social
media transforms communication practices among healthcare professionals will be essential in
understanding and evaluating the impacts of social media use by HCPs. It will also be necessary
to document how health professionals, other than doctors, use these platforms for peer interactions.
These traces will help identify successful social networking strategies and those that should be
shared as well as promoted among clinicians (George, Rovniak, and Kraschnewski, 2013).
As such, further research is needed to develop, implement and evaluate the training strategies that
would encourage the appropriation of social media in clinical practice, for patient communication,
but also among colleagues and peers. In general, communication between HCPs occupies little
space in most training programs (Galarneau, et al., 2016). The increase in social media use by
patients, as well as by HCPs, offers researchers not only the opportunity to reflect on professional
health communication practices but also an occasion to reconsider and rethink these practices.
While professional social media use is still limited, we believe that it will become an essential tool
for everyday medical practice.
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... Il semble pertinent d'intégrer l'apprentissage des réseaux sociaux aux formations existantes TICE (Technologies de l'Informations et de Communication pour l'Enseignement). L'étude suggère également l'intérêt d'ateliers de formations professionnelles continues autour des réseaux sociaux mêlant professions et générations.(20,21) ...
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Introduction: Since February 2020, a Covid-19 epidemic has taken place in France. During the first quarantine, in the department of Maine-et-Loire (49), general practitioners set up a network called "Coville-49" in the form of outpatient consultation centers dedicated to COVID-19 and co-articulated between the ARS Pays de la Loire, the University Hospital of Angers, the Council of the Departmental Order of Physicians and the ADOPS49 (Association for the Organization of Permanent Care). A Telegram "Coville 49" instant messaging discussion thread was created and brought together all the physicians involved in the field. The purpose of the study was to assess the help that the creation of a specific “Coville-49” network could have given to general practitioners and to describe their reorganization mechanisms to face the COVID-19 crisis, in particular through the contribution of digital tools (social networks, teleconsultation). Method: This was a survey carried out from 11/04/2020 to 25/04/2020, based on an anonymous survey "Google Forms", sent to practitioners registered in the discussion thread "Coville 49" by Telegram messaging. This system included 541 registered doctors. The survey addressed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on organizational and practical levels and on the difficulties encountered in their exercise. Results: 52.4% (240/458) of active discussion members responded to the survey. 79% of the respondents were general practitioners. 82.1% participated in the Coville-49 outpatient network. 89.8% felt it made it easier for them to exercise. The Telegram wire was their primary information resource and a direct peer-to-peer exchange. Teleconsultation was used for more than 90.5% of them. Despite a destabilization for 79.5% of them and a drop in activity for 97.9%, respondents' sense of usefulness in the face of the crisis achieved an average score of 6.4 / 10. Liberal outpatient doctors were more worried about their patients’ situation of their relatives’ than for themselves. Conclusion: The intersectoral, inter-structural, inter-professional Coville-49 network has been able to pool a diversity of strengths, exchanges and experience sharing which was acclaimed by all participants. It was an innovative response adapted to the crisis situation. It may open up to new practices between health professionals and general medicine.
... For example, the medical field utilizes digital social media tools to enhance professional learning and development (Gonzalo, Thompson, Haidet, Mann, & Wolpaw, 2017;Roberts et al., 2015;Roland, Spurr, & Cabrera, 2017;Thoër, Millerand, & Duque, 2017). Chretien, Tuck, Simon, Singh, and Kind (2015) examined the role of Twitter for professional learning and development amongst a group of medical students. ...
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This study of the #acadv chat community details a longitudinal study about a digital learning network comprised of academic advising professionals who work in higher education. We discuss how networked communities of practice (CoP) scaffold professional learning and development of post-secondary educators, while also contributing to their daily practice. Utilizing Twitter chat transcripts, digital documents, social media platforms, and interviews with 17 participants of this community, we report 22 topics discussed with the top five themes focused on student needs, orientation support, advising approaches and structures, workload, and individual career development. Using a netnographic approach, we explore and offer insights about the origins, management, and sustainability of this networked practice over a seven-year period. Important findings center the organic, participatory nature of the community, the shared leadership structure, and the bidirectional nature of online and offline relationships as impacted in an online, occupational CoP. We suggest further research into networked practice to understand more about self-directed learning, participant motivation, digital archiving, and digital knowledge sharing in these types of networked occupational CoPs.
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Background: Prevailing health care structures and cultures restrict intraprofessional communication, inhibiting knowledge dissemination and impacting the translation of research into practice. Virtual communities may facilitate professional networking and knowledge sharing in and between health care disciplines. Objectives: This study aimed to review the literature on the use of social media by health care professionals in developing virtual communities that facilitate professional networking, knowledge sharing, and evidence-informed practice. Methods: An integrative literature review was conducted to identify research published between 1990 and 2015. Search strategies sourced electronic databases (PubMed, CINAHL), snowball references, and tables of contents of 3 journals. Papers that evaluated social media use by health care professionals (unless within an education framework) using any research design (except for research protocols or narrative reviews) were included. Standardized data extraction and quality assessment tools were used. Results: Overall, 72 studies were included: 44 qualitative (including 2 ethnographies, 26 qualitative descriptive, and 1 Q-sort) and 20 mixed-methods studies, and 8 literature reviews. The most common methods of data collection were Web-based observation (n=39), surveys (n=23), interviews (n=11), focus groups (n=2), and diaries (n=1). Study quality was mixed. Social media studied included Listservs (n=22), Twitter (n=18), general social media (n=17), discussion forums (n=7), Web 2.0 (n=3), virtual community of practice (n=3), wiki (n=1), and Facebook (n=1). A range of health care professionals were sampled in the studies, including physicians (n=24), nurses (n=15), allied health professionals (n=14), followed by health care professionals in general (n=8), a multidisciplinary clinical specialty area (n=9), and midwives (n=2). Of 36 virtual communities, 31 were monodiscipline for a discrete clinical specialty. Population uptake by the target group ranged from 1.6% to 29% (n=4). Evaluation using related theories of "planned behavior" and the "technology acceptance model" (n=3) suggests that social media use is mediated by an individual's positive attitude toward and accessibility of the media, which is reinforced by credible peers. The most common reason to establish a virtual community was to create a forum where relevant specialty knowledge could be shared and professional issues discussed (n=17). Most members demonstrated low posting behaviors but more frequent reading or accessing behaviors. The most common Web-based activity was request for and supply of specialty-specific clinical information. This knowledge sharing is facilitated by a Web-based culture of collectivism, reciprocity, and a respectful noncompetitive environment. Findings suggest that health care professionals view virtual communities as valuable knowledge portals for sourcing clinically relevant and quality information that enables them to make more informed practice decisions. Conclusions: There is emerging evidence that health care professionals use social media to develop virtual communities to share domain knowledge. These virtual communities, however, currently reflect tribal behaviors of clinicians that may continue to limit knowledge sharing. Further research is required to evaluate the effects of social media on knowledge distribution in clinical practice and importantly whether patient outcomes are significantly improved.
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Purpose – This paper aims to explore the potential contributions of social media in supporting tacit knowledge sharing, according to the physicians’ perspectives and experiences. Design/methodology/approach – Adopting a qualitative survey design, 24 physicians were interviewed. Purposive and snowball sampling were used to select the participants. Thematic analysis approach was used for data analysis. Findings – The study revealed five major themes and over 20 sub-themes as potential contributions of social media to tacit knowledge flow among physicians. The themes included socialising, practising, networking, storytelling and encountering. In addition, with the help of the literature and the supporting data, the study proposed a conceptual model that explains the potential contribution of social media to tacit knowledge sharing. Research limitations/implications – The study had both theoretical (the difficulty of distinguishing tacit and explicit knowledge in practice) and practical limitations (small sample size). The study findings have implications for the healthcare industry whose clinical teams are not always physically co-located but must exchange their critical experiential and tacit knowledge. Originality/value – The study has opened up a new discussion of this area by demonstrating and conceptualising how social media tools may facilitate tacit knowledge sharing. Keywords Information technology, Knowledge sharing, Social media, Health care, Physicians, Tacit knowledge Paper type Research paper
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Purpose: Cancer management requires coordinated care from many health care providers, and its complexity requires physicians be up to date on current research. Web-based social media support physician collaboration and information sharing, but the extent to which physicians use social media for these purposes remains unknown. The complex field of oncology will benefit from increased use of online social media to enhance physician communication, education, and mentorship. To facilitate this, patterns of social media use among oncologists must be better understood. Methods: A nine-item survey investigating physician social media use, designed using online survey software, was distributed via e-mail to 680 oncology physicians and physicians in training in Canada. Responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: A total of 207 responses (30%) were received; 72% of respondents reported using social media. Social media use was highest, at 93%, in respondents age 25 to 34 years and lowest, at 39%, in those age 45 to 54 years. This demonstrates a significant gap in social media use between younger users and mid- to late-career users. The main barrier to use was lack of free time. Conclusion: The identified gap in social media use between age cohorts may have negative implications for communication in oncology. Despite advancements in social media and efforts to integrate social media into medical education, most oncologists and trainees use social media rarely, which, along with the age-related gap in use, may have consequences for collaboration and education in oncology. Investigations to further understand barriers to social media use should be undertaken to enhance physician collaboration and knowledge sharing through social media.
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Social media may blur the line between socialisation and professional use. Traditional views on medical professionalism focus on limiting motives and behaviours to avoid situations that may compromise care. It is not surprising that social media are perceived as a threat to professionalism. To develop evidence for the professional use of social media in medicine. A qualitative framework was used based on an appreciative inquiry approach to gather perceptions and experiences of 31 participants at the 2014 Social Media Summit. The main benefits of social media were the widening of networks, access to expertise from peers and other health professionals, the provision of emotional support and the ability to combat feelings of isolation. Appreciative inquiry is a tool that can develop the positive practices of organisations and individuals. Our results provide evidence for the professional use of social media that may contribute to guidelines to help individuals realise benefits and avoid harms. Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to
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The Internet is increasingly used to search for health information by patients and physicians. The objective of this article, which is based on a review of the scientific literature, is to understand how the use of the internet in health care is remodeling the physician-patient relationship. We present the main theoretical models of the doctor-patient relationship then examine 1) how patient participation within the medical encounter is changing, 2) how doctors respond to these informed-patients and use the internet within their clinical practice, and 3) how this affects the doctor-patient relationship. Our analysis indicates that mediation of health information and the role performed by physicians are changing in a context where clinical expertise is framed, where health care is being increasingly considered a commodity and where both patients and doctors focus on health risk prevention.
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Background Within the medical community there is persistent debate as to whether the information available through social media is trustworthy and valid, and whether physicians are ready to adopt these technologies and ultimately embrace them as a format for professional development and lifelong learning. Objective To identify how physicians are using social media to share and exchange medical information with other physicians, and to identify the factors that influence physicians’ use of social media as a component of their lifelong learning and continuing professional development. Methods We developed a survey instrument based on the Technology Acceptance Model, hypothesizing that technology usage is best predicted by a physician’s attitudes toward the technology, perceptions about the technology’s usefulness and ease of use, and individual factors such as personal innovativeness. The survey was distributed via email to a random sample of 1695 practicing oncologists and primary care physicians in the United States in March 2011. Responses from 485 physicians were analyzed (response rate 28.61%). Results Overall, 117 of 485 (24.1%) of respondents used social media daily or many times daily to scan or explore medical information, whereas 69 of 485 (14.2%) contributed new information via social media on a daily basis. On a weekly basis or more, 296 of 485 (61.0%) scanned and 223 of 485 (46.0%) contributed. In terms of attitudes toward the use of social media, 279 of 485 respondents (57.5%) perceived social media to be beneficial, engaging, and a good way to get current, high-quality information. In terms of usefulness, 281 of 485 (57.9%) of respondents stated that social media enabled them to care for patients more effectively, and 291 of 485 (60.0%) stated it improved the quality of patient care they delivered. The main factors influencing a physician’s usage of social media to share medical knowledge with other physicians were perceived ease of use and usefulness. Respondents who had positive attitudes toward the use of social media were more likely to use social media and to share medical information with other physicians through social media. Neither age nor gender had a significant impact on adoption or usage of social media. Conclusions Based on the results of this study, the use of social media applications may be seen as an efficient and effective method for physicians to keep up-to-date and to share newly acquired medical knowledge with other physicians within the medical community and to improve the quality of patient care. Future studies are needed to examine the impact of the meaningful use of social media on physicians’ knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors in practice.
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Healthcare professionals (HCPs) are using social media tools to communicate, educate and engage with their peers worldwide. Twitter allows HCPs to deliver easily accessible "real-time" clinical information on a global scale. Twitter has over 500 million active users who generate over 58 million tweets and 2.1 billion search queries every day. In this paper, we describe why Twitter is important, how and when an infectious diseases (ID) HCP should use Twitter, the impact it has in disseminating ID news, and the educational value of Twitter. We also describe various tools within Twitter, such as Twitter Chat, that connect and bond HCPs on a specific topic. For the ID HCP, Twitter may help teach the global responsible use of antimicrobials in a world of escalating antimicrobial resistance. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please e-mail:
Keeping up-to-date with new health information is a necessity for healthcare professionals. Today, social media platforms such as Twitter, among others, are important sources for healthcare professionals. Within the Arab world, little is known about how healthcare professionals use social media to update their healthcare information. This study aims to estimate the prevalence of healthcare professionals, primarily physicians, in seeking online health information in Saudi Arabia. We conducted a web-based survey among Twitter participants between February 1 and March 10, 2015. The primary outcome measures were the self-reported rates of Twitter use, perceived effects, and the influence of Twitter information on clinical practice. Our results revealed that the prevalence rate of physician's seeking online health information was 79% (n=166); the majority of them (71.4%, n=150) reported that Twitter had a significant impact in increasing their medical knowledge and in improving their clinical practice. Over half of the survey participates reported the need for investment in establishing trustworthy and credible health Twitter accounts. The participants reported that their preference for social media health accounts that focus on women's health, non-communicable disease and psychotherapy (20%, 18.1% and 14.5% respectively). The findings showed clearly that seeking web-based medical information through social media is popular among physicians, in general, but especially among younger physicians in Saudi Arabia. The study findings indicate to the necessity for further research on designing and implementing a national social media based educational outreach program to provide evidence-based healthcare information and improve healthcare providers' knowledge and skills in Saudi Arabia.
Context.— Informal (curbside) consultations are an integral part of medical culture and may be of great value to patients and primary care physicians. However, little is known about physicians' behavior or attitudes toward curbside consultation. Objective.— To describe and compare curbside consultation practices and attitudes among primary care physicians and medical subspecialists. Design.— Survey mailed in June 1997. Participants.— Of 286 primary care physicians and 252 subspecialists practicing in Rhode Island, 213 primary care physicians and 200 subspecialists responded (response rate, 76.8%). Main Outcome Measures.— Self-reported practices of, reasons for, and attitudes about curbside consultation. Results.— Of primary care physicians, 70.4% (150/213) and 87.5% (175/200) of subspecialists reported participating in at least 1 curbside consultation during the previous week. In the previous week, primary care physicians obtained 3.2 curbside consultations, whereas subspecialists received 3.6 requests for curbside consultations. Subspecialties most frequently involved in curbside consultations were cardiology, gastroenterology, and infectious diseases; subspecialties that were requested to provide curbside consultations more often than they were formally consulted were endocrinology, infectious diseases, and rheumatology. Curbside consultations were most often used to select appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment plans and to determine the need for formal consultation. Subspecialists perceived more often than primary care physicians that information communicated in curbside consultations was insufficient (80.2% vs 49.8%; P<.001) and that important clinical detail was not described (77.6% vs 43.5%; P <.001). More subspecialists than primary care physicians felt that curbside consultations were essential for maintaining good relationships with other physicians (77.2% vs 38.6%; P <.001). Conclusions.— Curbside consultation serves important functions in the practice of medicine. Despite the widespread use of curbside consultation, disagreement exists between primary care physicians and subspecialists as to the role of curbside consultation and the quality of the information exchanged.
While researchers have studied negative professional consequences of medical trainee social media use, little is known about how medical students informally use social media for education and career development. This knowledge may help future and current physicians succeed in the digital age. We aimed to explore how and why medical students use Twitter for professional development. This was a digital ethnography. Medical student "superusers" of Twitter participated in the study APPROACH: The postings ("tweets") of 31 medical student superusers were observed for 8 months (May-December 2013), and structured field notes recorded. Through purposive sampling, individual key informant interviews were conducted to explore Twitter use and values until thematic saturation was reached (ten students). Three faculty key informant interviews were also conducted. Ego network and subnetwork analysis of student key informants was performed. Qualitative analysis included inductive coding of field notes and interviews, triangulation of data, and analytic memos in an iterative process. Twitter served as a professional tool that supplemented the traditional medical school experience. Superusers approached their use of Twitter with purpose and were mindful of online professionalism as well as of being good Twitter citizens. Their tweets reflected a mix of personal and professional content. Student key informants had a high number of followers. The subnetwork of key informants was well-connected, showing evidence of a social network versus information network. Twitter provided value in two major domains: access and voice. Students gained access to information, to experts, to a variety of perspectives including patient and public perspectives, and to communities of support. They also gained a platform for advocacy, control of their digital footprint, and a sense of equalization within the medical hierarchy. Twitter can serve as a professional tool that supplements traditional education. Students' practices and guiding principles can serve as best practices for other students as well as faculty.