By Pascal Meier
Pascal Meier believes that social media is the logical next step from the internet—just as the internet has revolutionised connectivity, social media is revolutionising communication. In this commentary, he explains why social media presents a great opportunity for interventional cardiologists to work together to improve patient care and provides practical tips on how to safely and effectively use social media platforms.
Social media is an efficient and comprehensive information tool that can be individualised for your personal needs—you decide what information you receive, how you receive it and when you receive it. It also facilitates collaboration and communication, regardless of geographical distance. However if using social media to discuss cases, you do have to be careful about safeguarding a patient’s privacy—particularly as it can be difficult to completely remove or delete information from a social medial platform, such as Twitter, once it has been published there. With this caveat in mind, in this commentary, I will outline some practical tips for using social media to keep up to date with the latest developments in interventional cardiology.
To avoid being overwhelmed, create accounts with only one or two platforms. I recommend one of the “big” ones, such as Twitter or Facebook. You should easily be able to find friends or colleagues who are already using the platform and who could help you to navigate it.
When creating your profile, do not hide behind an anonymous profile—clearly declare your identity with a photo and your name. However, invest some time in adjusting the privacy settings and decide who you want to see your profile and to contact you through the platform; be rather “restrictive” at the beginning (eg. if using Facebook, only allow “friends” to see your posts and only grant friend requests to people you actually know in the “real world”). Remember that with social media, nothing you post is really that private—so never post anything you would not want your colleagues or managers to see! You should also be careful about providing medical advice to patients through social media. It may be better to recommend that they come and see you in clinic or suggest that they see a colleague.
Because of time limitations, you are unlikely to be able to read all of the available medical journals or articles in your field or attend all of the relevant conferences. However, you can find the key information from these resources via Twitter. For example, follow a few key opinion leaders, journals and organisations in your field. Using the list option (accessible by pressing/clicking on your profile image in the top right-hand corner), group similar accounts you are following into lists (such as “medical journals” etc)—this helps to organise your Twitter feed so that it does not become overwhelming.
Another tip is to set aside time to check your account (eg. during your commute to work—obviously, not if you are driving!). If you are short on time, “Favourite” Tweets (press/click on the star button underneath the Tweet) with links to articles that you want to read. These Tweets will then be saved in the “Favourites” column on your Twitter profile page and you will be able to read the articles when you have more time.
Social media platforms can be used to connect with your peers to discuss topics and even clinical cases. LinkedIn has numerous physician interest groups—for example, EAPCI Community. This particular group provides a discussion forum for members of the European Association of Percutaneous Cardiovascular Interventions (EAPCI).
Some groups on LinkedIn do not require permission to join (just click/press “join”) but others will require you request membership and might have conditions to membership (ie. you need to be a member of EAPCI to join that group). Once you have joined a group, participate in an ongoing discussion of your interest or launch a discussion by presenting a case etc. However, as already mentioned, be very careful about data confidentiality and avoid mentioning any details that could identify a patient.
For me, social media has dramatically changed how I practise and how I interact with my colleagues. I feel much more connected with my colleagues with same interests—regardless of where they are and it has made communication and learning even more entertaining and fun for me. All you need is an internet-enabled device (eg. a smartphone, tablet or a computer)!
Pascal Meier, interventional cardiologist, university Hospital Geneva, Switzerland and University College London UCL, London. He can be contacted via Twitter or LinkedIn. You can watch a PCR interview with Pascal Meier about using social media interventional cardiology, here.