Surgery 'well suited' for social media

By Molly Merrill
09:28 AM
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Two surgeons from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences are touting the benefits of social media to their colleagues as a way to disseminate accurate information to their trainees and patients.

But before embracing social media, surgeons should fully understand the potential security and medical-legal implications of using it, said authors Philip L. Glick, MD, vice chairman and professor in UB's Department of Surgery and professor of pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology, and Sani Yamout, MD (pictured below), a fellow in pediatric surgery at UB, now training under Glick at Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.

Glick and Yamout are avid Twitter fans who recently co-authored "Making Social Media Work for Surgeons and Patients," an article published in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons.

The piece urges surgeons to participate in online conversations about diseases and patient care -- discussions frequently dominated by lay people and inaccurate information. The UB surgeons also say that social media rapidly expedites and amplifies communication for graduate medical education (GME) and continuing medical education (CME).

"Social media is a great way to leverage the time and research you put into training," said Glick. "A surgeon's greatest legacy is his or her trainees. ... And a lot of the training consists of passing on information, lessons learned and wisdom to the next generation. Twitter allows us to dramatically scale up our ability to do this. When I post something on Twitter, all the pediatric surgeons, trainees and colleagues in the country and the world can see it instantly."

Social media allows medical professionals to share information, regardless of geographic boundaries, Glick added -- and surgery is particular well suited to using social media because it is highly visual, he says.
"Social media allows us to take digitized audio and video content of procedures, edit it into pieces that have some teaching value and share it," says Glick.

Glick acknowledges that many medical professionals are uneasy about using social media because of possible legal implications. He stresses that only with significant foresight and robust institutional guidelines should any medical professional use social media to communicate with patients. Organizations like the American College of Surgeons and the American Medical Association are currently developing guidelines on the responsible use of social media with patients, Glick notes.

Glick's Twitter handle is @glicklab, and he blogs at "Glickisms on the Go". Yamout’s Twitter handle is @PedSurgZn and he tweets about topics from his blog, which covers subjects related to pediatric surgery, from dilemmas in patient care and relevant and current topics in the pediatric surgery literature to interesting cases he sees at the hospital.