How Do Doctors Use Social Media?


Social media provides users the opportunity to generate, share, comment on and network with others. A growing number of physicians are using social media as a platform for health communication, but they do not use it entirely the same as others due to potential HIPAA violation concerns, and ultimately fear of potential repercussions frank conversation could have on their real life. So how are doctors using social media? Are they using each platform in the same way? And what kinds of conversations are they having?

According to a recent study that compared high-level linguistic trends in conversation between doctors, there are striking differences between how doctors communicate on physician-only social networks and consumer social networks. The study contrasted trends about doctors’ conversations from 2014 on Twitter to discussion over the same time period on SERMO. Twitter was used by doctors to primarily share news and third-party content (eg. medical information, latest trial results, medical education, etc.), whereas aggregated textual analysis showed that conversations on SERMO indicate storytelling and sharing personal experiences. No personal identifying information was used in the study – privacy is foundational to SERMO’s mission.

This new data builds on a 2016 study, in which SERMO was found to be the leading network for medical crowdsourcing/ getting second opinions to doctors/ consulting patient cases as well as lounge talk/ destressing/ humor/ politics. LinkedIn was the most commonly cited network for job searching by doctors. The study also showed that consumer social platforms are used to a much lesser extent than medical social platforms to discuss medicine and engage with other doctors.

To understand why this may be, we turn to qualitative feedback from our users. The enormous recent turmoil in healthcare and the changing role of physicians contributes to this difference. Doctors need a safe haven— a place to unite, to share, and to be heard. Due to acute liability and privacy concerns, most doctors don’t engage professionally on consumer social networks where they are identifiable. Coupled with the option to remain anonymous, a feature unique to SERMO among doctor-only networks, physicians feel free to express themselves candidly.

Are you a physician who wants to join the #1 global social network for doctors? Join SERMO to share your experiences with other doctors from around the world!



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