The doctor will tweet you now — Dr. Austin Chiang on patient education & social media

Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University Hospital gastroenterologist and American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy Public and Member Outreach Committee member Austin Chiang, MD, spoke to Becker's ASC Review on the importance of public awareness of gastroenterology.

Note: Responses were lightly edited for style.

1. Concerning the most pressing issue in GI in 2018: Raising public awareness of GI directly influences how people perceive their own gut health and [how they] seek expertise when necessary. It can also widen a person's understanding of what gastroenterologists do, [while also] allowing patients to ask their gastroenterologists about areas they can often help treat, such as obesity.

The degree to which the public cares about GI diseases may ultimately impact the amount of philanthropic funding for these GI conditions and inspire bright medical students to become gastroenterologists as well.

2. On the best opportunity to be successful in 2018: The greatest concerns I hear from practices and professionals about social media is that it is a liability and a time burden. When utilized appropriately and consistently, while abiding to HIPAA and other such regulations, social media is a creative way to reach relevant audiences who would otherwise not connect with a practice or physician. These audiences include not only patients, but also physician colleagues and industry professionals.

The last thing a practice or physician wants to come across doing [on social media] is overt advertising. Though often cited as a marketing tool, social media has applications in patient education, professional education, networking and public health. To illustrate, platforms like YouTube are being increasingly used [as] a resource [through] tutorials, video lectures, product reviews and individual opinions.

Across all social media platforms, physicians can drop knowledge about relevant topics, answer frequently asked questions and perhaps improve adherence to treatment as a result. Personally, social media has helped me keep track of medical literature and has given me the opportunity to network with accomplished thought leaders in my field.

It should be no surprise that nowadays patients largely obtain their medical information from the internet, which is rampant with medical misinformation from untrained individuals. Millennials like myself, who grew up using social media platforms are accustomed to sharing videos, articles and experiences with one another. Similarly, patients are using social media to connect and physicians should be a part of discourse [occurring] outside the clinic. The pace of communication has accelerated with technology, such that word-of-mouth is now too slow. Therefore, my opinion is that social media involvement is no longer an option, but a necessity.

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