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Live From the CHIME 2012 Spring Forum: What Wendy Sue Swanson Knows

February 20, 2012
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Physician mega-blogger offers her insights on medicine and social media engagement

At this moment, Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a general pediatrician in Seattle, is advocating very strongly for the use of social media, in a presentation to attendees at the CHIME 2012 Spring Forum, being held at the Venetian Sands Expo in Las Vegas, on the day before the full-fledged opening of HIMSS12.

Swanson, who may be one of the most social media-engaged physicians in the United States, believes firmly in engaging patients and families through social media of all types. Naturally, she blogs, tweets, posts on Facebook, etc., etc.  And of course, it occurs to me that the very fact of her being such a strong, early adopter of social media means that some physicians and others in healthcare may tend to discount out of hand some of what Swanson has to say.

But here’s the thing: she’s got a lot of very interesting ideas to offer. For example, she says, what if she as a physician were able to do a one-minute video with advice to a parent of one of her patients on how to handle a particular clinical condition with that parent’s child, and send that video in an encrypted fashion? That parent, she says, would be thrilled.

Also, she notes, 73 percent of physicians are texting on their smartphones in their personal lives. So, she asks, why aren’t we texting parents with results on Chlamydia screens, for example, so that they could pull up the results of those screenings privately, on their smartphones? Results notification, patient and family education, and physician-patient (or, in the case of pediatricians like herself, physician-parent) communication, are great areas of potential going forward.

In addition, she notes that Seattle Children’s Hospital has actually allowed her to incorporate social media activity into her professional work.

For now, Swanson remains the exception that proves the rule regarding doctors not wanting to engage in social media (and of course, some are still getting used to using EHRs and clinical documentation tools!). But who can say? Ten years from now, should we be surprised if there are hundreds of Wendy Sue Swansons?