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One in four US doctors make daily, professional use of social media

Survey finds social media helps in managing information overload

A Pfizer-funded study on US physicians' use of social media to share and exchange medical information with their colleagues has found that nearly a quarter make daily, professional use of social media.

The study, published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, also found 14 per cent of those surveyed said they contributed new information via social media on a daily basis.

Writing in the Journal, the study authors said: “Based on the results of this study, the use of social media applications may be seen as an efficient and effective method for physicians to keep up-to-date and to share newly acquired medical knowledge with other physicians within the medical community and to improve the quality of patient care.”

But they cautioned: “Future studies are needed to examine the impact of the meaningful use of social media on physicians' knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviours in practice.”

In terms of social media use, the study found:

• 24.1 per cent of respondents used social media daily or many times daily to scan or explore medical information

• 14.2 per cent contributed new information via social media on a daily basis

• On a weekly basis or more, 61 per cent scanned and 46 per cent contributed.

The survey also set out to identify the factors that influence physicians' use of social media as a component of their lifelong learning and continuing professional development.

When it came to attitudes towards social media, the study found:

• 57.5 per cent perceived social media to be beneficial, engaging, and a good way to get current, high-quality information

• 57.9 per cent of respondents said social media enabled them to care for patients more effectively, and 60 per cent said it improved the quality of patient care they delivered.

The main factors influencing whether a doctor uses social media is their perceptions about the technology's ease of use and usefulness.

They also found that neither age nor gender had a significant impact on adoption or usage of social media.

The study saw 485 practicing doctors (186 oncologists and 299 primary care physicians) in the US complete an email survey in March, 2011.

The authors concluded: “The amount of information that a practicing clinician must learn, understand, and apply in practice is growing at unprecedented levels and has long surpassed our cognitive capacities.

“Social media and social learning models in general provide an important opportunity to manage this information overload, but only if the media are being used effectively.”

23rd October 2012

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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