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Pitfalls and positives of social media in medicine today

logos of social mediaA new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) “surveyed the 68 executive directors of all medical and osteopathic boards in the United States and its territories about violations of online professionalism reported to them.” Of those that responded, 92% indicated at least one of a list of online professional violations had been reported to their board. The following graph depicts the number of state medical boards reporting violations, not the number of violations themselves:

bar graph of study results

The number of incidents, when compared to the total number of disciplinary actions taken by medical boards, is small, but can be expected to grow as more physicians embrace and use social media.

In contrast, at Ohio State University (OSU), instructors recognize that today’s learners rely more heavily on technology to gain knowledge for a future career. A pilot study showed how social media (in this case, Twitter and Facebook) can be used to “push” helpful information to students on a daily basis. More than half of the participants had not used Twitter previously, and upwards of 80% found it a useful and helpful addition to their course.

Any tool can and will be used and misused, social media included. What is important is to learn from our mistakes, and remain open to new and novel ways to benefit all.

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