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The GMC Conference II – Social Media

December 12, 2013

In Part I, I talked about the morning debate around whistleblowing.

During lunch, I joined a seminar on social media hosted by the GMC and Dr Anne-Marie Cunningham, who I now regard as some kind of guru in on the subject.

This year, since at least the spring, social media for doctors has been something of a hot potato. Various medical bodies have published guidelines for use and there has been lively debate on and offline about their interpretations. When the GMC published its guidance, there was uproar, decrying it as an act of though-police, pressing the boot into the face of freedom of expression.

However, when you talk it over someone (like today), you realise how sensible the advice really is. It still fels a little out-of-touch but its nice that they’re trying. The duties expected of a doctor remain the same online as they are offline. This includes treating colleagues with respect and respecting patient confidentiality.

I must admit I find it entertaining to watch the exchange between famed TV doctor, Dr Christian Jessen, and various other doctors on Twitter on how medicals should and should not use the platform. Sometimes, the only thing missing is popcorn. What it boils down to, if you identify as a doctor on social media, treat everything you say as if you were saying it in a white coat on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square. Warning: Context may be sold separately.

Dr Cunningham then gave example after example of the benefits of social media for doctors, specifically Twitter:

ImageAll credit to Dr Cunningham for this slide. Find the original here.

Examples included:

  • #DyingMatters – As part of the discussion, Dr Elin Roddy, a respiratory consultant, blogging about helping dying patients die well.
  • #HelloMyNameIs – Campaign started by Dr/Patient Kate Granger after she noted not all healthcare professionals introduced themselves during a hospital admission.
  • #NHSChangeDay – A nationwide grassroots commitment to improve the NHS that started with a single tweet.
  • #Gasclass et al – A growing legion of Twitter and blog-based case-based discussions for medical education. My personal favourite is #Twitfrg
  • #Wrongfooted – A reflective case of a ‘never event’ – the wrong foot being amputated. Blogged and shared on Twitter for greater dissemination and education.

I could go on but I won’t. If you’re interested, you can check out these Twitter hashtags for yourself.

The lunchtime lesson was that social media is not necessarily an obstacle to professionalism. In fact, doctors and medical students are finding ways to do some very exciting things with it!

In Part III, Jeremy Hunt takes the stage.


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