Do You Care If Your Doctor Is Aware of Facebook Or YouTube?

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the recently published article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research by Brian McGowan, et al – Understanding the Factors That Influence the Adoption and Meaningful Use of Social Media by Physicians to Share Medical Information – I encourage you to do so. I found it to be quite interesting with lots of little nuggets of fascinating information.

Although not the focus of the article, I was intrigued by the data for  “Respondents’ current use and intention to use social media” (Figure 2), particularly the individuals who gave a “Not Aware” response. Check out the percentage of respondents who claimed to be “Not Aware” of the following tools and platforms (n=485):

RSS Feeds: 22%
LinkedIn: 14%
Podcasting: 5%
YouTube: 4%
Twitter: 3%
Wikipedia/Wikis: 3%
Facebook: 2%
Blogs: 2%
Restricted Online Communities: 2%

Maybe I’m being naive here, but I find these numbers kind of stunning. 19 of 485 physicians surveyed were not aware of YouTube? Really? YouTube? Nine were not aware of Facebook. How is that even possible? My 86 year old grandmother is aware of Facebook. She doesn’t use it, but she’s at least aware of it. I know the percentages are low, but the fact that they’re not zero is baffling to me.

It really made me think: what would my reaction be if I asked my doctor if he/she had seen the latest viral video on YouTube and their response was, “What’s YouTube?” I have to admit that that might be a deal-breaker for me. It’s not that I think YouTube or Facebook or any of these other social media platforms is of such vital importance that I won’t see a physician who doesn’t use them. Rather, I question whether I could (or should) trust a physician with the care of my health knowing they are completely oblivious to something that a large percentage of the public utilizes on a routine daily basis.

I suppose an argument could be made that there are individuals in this world who are of such singular focus and dedication to their vocation that it is entirely possible that ubiquitous cultural phenomena such as Facebook and YouTube never enter their sphere of consciousness (I’m reminded of the apocryphal story of Dick Vermeil, Philadelphia Eagles coach during the late 70’s – early 80’s and a notorious workaholic. The story goes that Coach Vermeil was hard at work in his office in Philly on a warm early July day in 1976 and became annoyed with the constant noise of planes flying overhead. Upon questioning one of his assistant coaches as to what was going on, the coach replied, “They’re part of the Bicentennial celebration, Dick. Today’s the 4th of July!”). Some might even argue that singular focus is a desirable quality in a physician. I would argue that I’m more interested in someone who has a fuller awareness of the world at large. I don’t care if they use Facebook, but I do think they need to be aware of it.

I think I might ask my doctor this the next time I see him…


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