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How are clinicians using social media to get messages across?

It’s been awhile. Busy with … everything! So we’re back to answering a question from the 26 questions of Doctors 2.0 by Denise Silber.

I picked this question because I’ve grappled with this for some time now.

In the beginning it was about drawing the line for communicating with patients on Facebook. In 2010, I wrote about whether doctors and patients can become friends on Facebook. I decided I wouldn’t. I wrote another post on what doctors should do when a patient makes a friend request.

Then I gave a talk on Web 2.0 and Medicine last January 2012 and someone asked me about patient support groups on Facebook. I didn’t have any experience with that. My Google search led me to a slide deck by Ed Bennett which offered pointers on terms and conditions, disclaimers and a comments policy. I began toying with the idea of a Facebook page.

Eventually, I opened a Facebook page separate from my personal FB account in December 2012. It was an experiment to see if I could make photos with health messages go viral. I explained Facebook insights for this page a month later here. I was only achieving 30% virality. In the end, I stopped looking at this! Later, someone would tell me this was just vanity metrics.

One of the things I realized early on was there was a need for more health information in the Filipino language.



I wanted to raise awareness for screening for diabetes and hypertension.

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I had missteps when I talked about bacon, coffee and a show that wasn’t popular in the Philippines. Many of my countrymen cannot afford bacon or Starbucks. Downton Abbey was only on cable TV.

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I realized I needed to talk about local food.

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A popular series had been about making food choices. Many in my Facebook network threatened to unfriend me! I got valuable feedback from persons with diabetes on Twitter. One comment was to say “Make a choice” and not “Make the right choice.” Another told me that my diabetes messages were for those with type 2 and not type 1 diabetes. Still another told me that I was emphasizing calories too much. I’m still learning!

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I had some attempt at humor. I’m not sure how that went!

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I have many more of these pictures at though I have stopped making them since last year. I’m rethinking what I should do. What do likes and shares mean anyway?

Some of these pictures were printed as big posters and put up as an exhibit at a mall during a Diabetes Awareness Week a few years back. It has also been exhibited at a hospital lobby also for Diabetes Awareness Week. So I guess there’s some use for it offline.

I’ve never asked any of my patients to like my Facebook page. Some of my patients just stumbled on it on their own. I’m wondering if this is the logical next step though to focus my messages. I’m also thinking about this again with the launch of in the Philippines. My countrymen can now access Facebook for free.

I once said this was an advocacy. An epatient on Twitter asked me why I was doing this. He apparently didn’t think much about my clumsy efforts to get messages across. I agreed with him that perhaps people with a degree in media or communications can do better. But I want to do better! Maybe, it’s time to give this another go. 🙂


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