Perhaps it is just my perception, but a lot of articles directed at doctors seem to stress the negative side of social media and physicians. I would be Polyanna if I didn’t say there aren’t risks to social media, but everything in life carries risks. Living a life without risks isn’t living. That isn’t to say somebody should throw caution to the wind either. Life is about managing and risk vs. reward balance.
Dr. Ves Dimov has a very good post about a how a doctor can easily participate in social media and benefit greatly from that participation. In his post, “For doctors: How to be a Twitter star in two easy steps,” he address the issue of time (lack of time, more specifically) and Twitter. Specifically he says Twitter should take no more than 30 min. per day. I have to agree with him. I spend more time on email than I do on Twitter. I have Twitter up and running in the background and when an interesting tweet comes across I read it or comment on it. Takes me a total of 10-20 seconds total, perhaps a little more if they link out to an interesting article that I read.
For me Twitter at work is very similar to MEDLIB-L (the medical librarian listserv), medical librarians with questions or seeking to share quick bits of info send out tweets just like they send out emails on MEDLIB-L. The difference between the two for me is the content. Medical librarians on Twitter who post in general or using the hashtag #medlibs tend to post more tech related things, time sensitive things, or share good articles quickly. MEDLIB-L tends to have more in depth questions and discussions (naturally since it isn’t restricted to 140 characters).
For example, when the government was threatening to shut down, I received a question from a patron asking me about whether PubMed would remain running. I have to say the first thing I did was tweet the question. Why? More than just medical librarians are on Twitter. If my librarian friends don’t know the answer they can quickly RT and it goes out to another layer of people. Think of it as an information network onion. Your friends are one layer, their friends are another, and their friends friends are another.
April 18th, the same day the MLA online program planner came out, there was already a discussion on Twitter about how to add things on the program and import it into a calendar. The online program planner (and the difficulties encountered adding programs or importing it to a calendar) weren’t discussed on MEDLIB-L until May 2nd. This is example is not to point out that Twitter is faster or better than MEDLIB-L, on the contrary I have seen things break MEDLIB-L before Twitter. I just use this example of how Twitter is used professionally to get short answers quickly.
I highly recommend Dr. Ves’s post for people (especially physicians) interested in Twitter. Even those who think they aren’t interested in Twitter might like to read how easy it is to get started. As Dr Ves says, Twitter is a good place to start if you want to get involved in social media. It doesn’t require a lot of time to do or maintain and if you “have common sense, and never share the 18 HIPAA identifiers online or offline with unauthorized parties,” then you can minimize your risks and maximize your rewards for participating in social media.