So is partnering with patients, added Farris K. Timimi, MD, the center’s medical director.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2013
“For me to say with a straight face that only a physician can have expertise in a patient disease begins to lose credibility,” said Dr. Timimi, also program director for the Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Fellowship Program at Mayo. “Patients are the living experts of their disease.”
He said the majority of Mayo’s patients live online. He believes that physicians have a moral obligation to participate in online chats, especially considering the low cost of participation and profound scalability of health care information. Although the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 applies to health care information both on and offline, he said the center trains providers on how to avoid crossing blurred lines between sharing health information and practicing medicine.
Last year, one of Mayo’s transplant cardiologists, Brooks S. Edwards, MD, participated in the center’s Twitter chat that highlighted the importance of organ donation, which coincided with Facebook’s organ donor recruitment campaign. That same day, Mayo released a video of Dr. Edwards on its YouTube channel walking people through the process of changing their status to be an organ donor. The reach and penetration was “incredibly profound,” Dr. Timimi said.
“[Dr. Edwards] had never been an advocate of social media and has become very involved in Twitter,” he said. “The number of frank conversations that occurred in that Twitter chat—how many lives have been changed—really moved Brooks to be a strong advocate of social media participation.”
Using social media successfully is a learned, not innate, skill. The Center for Social Media offers social media guidelines for physicians and Social Media Residency training classes twice a year at each of Mayo’s three locations for any health care employee. Likewise, it also formed the Social Media Health Network, a membership group of 120 organizations that share ideas and access Mayo’s training materials.
In the future, Dr. Timimi believes the center will lead the way in social media’s evolution, helping doctors prescribe social media opportunities and tools for patients, such as specific Facebook chats or apps for losing weight.
Until then, the center will continue recreating and inventing social media learning opportunities.
“If you put good content in the hands of [people] online, when they become a patient, they’ll come to you for their medical care,” said Dr. Timimi. “Our obligation as providers is to walk with patients on their online journey.”