Doctors turning to social media for patient care

(KYTX) - Think of it as a new way for doctors to make house calls...

Physicians are texting health messages to patients, tracking disease trends on Twitter, identifying medical problems on Facebook, and communicating with patients through email.

Pediatrician Natasha Burgert spends her days treating patients in her Kansas City office, and with check-ups online.

Burgert's at the forefront of doctors using social media. She uses Twitter, Facebook, and a blog to get important information to her hard to reach patients.

"I think having vetted sources of good scientific and medical information is critical," says mother Chris Sexton. 

Sexton brings her two children to see Dr. Burgert. After her kids get a checkup, Sexton scans a recommended blog on car seats into her iPhone.

If she has questions, she can follow up with a text message.

"Sometimes a quick query via text could enable us to be able to skip an appointment that might not really be necessary,"says Sexton.

"Doctors have this kind of role in our society of being almost God-like and removed from the rest of us," says Wired editor Jason Tanz. "And when you're seeing your doctor tweet, that actually changes your relationship with them a little bit. They become more human.

That's especially important to adolescents, like 18-year-old Rae Ehly.

"I feel comfortable with her and because I can communicate with her like outside of seeing her in the office, it makes me feel more like I can tell her what's going on in my life," says Ehly.

Tanz thinks social media will continue to change how doctors practice medicine.

"I think the future of the doctor patient relationship is going to evolve, a freer flow of information both ways," says Tanz. "From the doctor to the patient and the patient to the doctor."

The American Medical Association agrees there are benefits in using social media, but also warns doctors to protect your privacy as a patient, and to also maintain appropriate boundaries.


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