Like a Diamond Mine

Follow the right people and hashtags on Twitter and every so often you will inevitably hit a seam of great content.

Dr. Bryan Vertabedian (@Doctor_V), an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine is one of the most thoughtful physicians going when it comes to looking at the role of doctors and the impact of social media and his blog ( is usually a must-read.

Earlier this week using the hashtag #BCMdigital and an automated posting tool, Vertabedian transmitted a series of tweets to coincide with a lecture he was giving to first-year medical students at Baylor.

They immediately struck myself and others who were watching a pithy synopsis of the huge changes new technology is having on the practice of medicine as well as some unalterable realities medical students should understand.

A summary of a few of those tweets follow.

  • A variety of forces r conspiring to redefine the physician: tech | information | health 2.0. Must understand our evolving role
  • Reality of the networked world: social communication will define the way MDs engage, learn and communicate
  • The most important decision a physician will make is who and what to listen to
  • The internet has changed the way patients see doctors, their diseases and themselves
  • Med students are at a very unique point in med history: Between a collapsing analog age and an emerging digital age
  • A great digital footprint will never cover for a doctor’s poor care
  • The ultimate user experience in medicine is face-to-face

Lectures have always been a means of communicating great ideas in medicine.

While Dr. William Osler was not a fan of lectures as a communications tool himself (he preferred training at the bedside), this description from the preface to his Evolution of Modern Medicine lecture series describes the exhaustive process whereby such lectures used to reach the masses one hundred years ago:

“The manuscript of Sir William Osler’s lectures on the “Evolution of Modern Medicine,” delivered at Yale University in April, 1913, on the Silliman Foundation, was immediately turned in to the Yale University Press for publication. Duly set in type, proofs in galley form had been submitted to him and despite countless interruptions he had already corrected and revised a number of the galleys when the great war came.. The careful corrections which Sir William made in the earlier galleys show that the lectures were dictated, in the first instance, as loose memoranda for oral delivery rather than as finished compositions for the eye, while maintaining throughout the logical continuity and the engaging con moto which were so characteristic of his literary style.”

Vertabedian demonstrates the new reality of such lectures – namely how the key messages can delivered globally simultaneously with giving the lecture itself.

A series of tweets given over the course of two hours will never constitute great literature as some of the classic university lectures of the past. Nor will they contain the connective tissue that makes the lecture a cohesive whole.

But for those of us trolling Twitter on a Monday afternoon in July, the opportunity to see the takeaway messages from as thoughtful a commentator as Vertabedian shows just how informative this channel can be.



4 thoughts on “Like a Diamond Mine

  1. Not sure about the word trolling Pat 😉 I certainly prefer to think of it as mining nuggets of gold. I was following along and favoriting Dr V’s insightful tweets and noticed a few gems of your own there too. The digital revolution will have a profound impact on the current doctor/patient communication status quo ( I agree with you that we have a long way to go before it is the status quo) as patients’ increasing use of new media changes their expectations for access to healthcare information and connection. A 2012 abstract in J Health Policy Res proposed that “the art and science of care surrounding the traditional face-to-face patient/doctor interaction will be forever changed as all aspects of communication, interaction, and information flow will become mediated (and monitored) by electronic tools. How doctors and their delivery systems use these tools to diagnose, treat, and support the patient-centered needs of each individual, as well as the overall socially balanced needs of the community, will become a paramount goal of all high achieving clinicians and practice organizations worldwide. Perhaps ironically, this infusion of technology may make it possible, or even mandatory, that future clinicians focus more on the art of care given that the technical side of medicine will increasingly be handled by the IT “box”.
    We live in interesting times!

    • Thanks for the comment, Marie
      Yes, I had second thoughts about ‘trolling’ as well, given the negative connotation in the social media context. Mining is probably better.

  2. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Pat. It’s good to know someone was listening in the back channel! I had never done this before and I think it represents a good way to summarize a lecture and draw attention to an emerging program. Our students were watching the feed apparently, some contributed. We’ll see where this goes.

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