Help for the helpers: #Covidwellness tips


Last Thursday evening, a small but dedicated group participated in a #COVIDWellness tweetchat and shared tips and advice for supporting healthcare providers during the current COVID19 pandemic.

Organized by @ChildHealthCan, the chat was co-hosted by @BrucePSquires, president of McMaster Children’s Hospital, @DrGigiOsler, past-president of @CMA_DOCS, and @KathyReid5, nursing leader at Stollery Children’s Hospital.

The hosts and others shared not only useful information on dealing with today’s situation but also for one hour created a positive community

Much of the information provided reinforced what other credible individuals have been saying about maintaining good mental and physical health during this time while striving to stay safe but connected.

A small sampling from the chat follows:









Twitter in the Age of #COVID19


In this the year of Our Lord 2020 we truly are seeing the power of Twitter and social media.

As individuals around the world struggle to cope with physical distancing and social isolation, Twitter and other mainstream social media channels have become major conduits for information and networking and are arguably strengthening many people’s mental health by helping ward off isolation.

Just as the spread of COVID-19 has been enabled by our global culture and ability to span the world in hours, so the global reach of social media has enabled people to stay in contact and informed even as they are confined to their homes. And COVID-19 is very definitely where it is at right now. Ninety-five percent if not more of the tweets now appearing in my feed from the 4,000 plus people I follow (admittedly mainly health-care related), deal with COVID-19 issues.

However, it is well worth remembering that Twitter and the like are just media platforms and are neither inherently good nor bad. And so, along with enabling better communications and interactions, social media platforms are once again showing with the COVID-19 pandemic how easy it is to transmit and amplify erroneous and downright dangerous information.

Another challenge is the asynchronous, ominpresent, yet selective nature of social media. Tweets are appearing in my feed that first appeared 3-4, if not more days ago – not a good thing given the fast-moving nature of what we understand about this pandemic. Information about outbreaks, number of cases, and availability of badly needed health care supplies needs to be timely to be useful and that is often not the case with what is appearing on social media.

Also, tweets are appearing from around the world – another challenge for those of us in countries such as Canada where public health measures and other badly needed information is determined at the provincial level. Much of what we are seeing is not relevant to our own situation and can be misleading.

Social media such as Twitter allow us to choose who we follow. This selection bias means we are not getting the whole picture and can be misled about what is going on in the world around us – another critical failing if we are isolated at home. The good news is that in a stream such as mine which is so heavily health-care focused, many good people are retweeting solid scientific evidence or opinion from others I am not following directly. Unfortunately, I am sure people in other echo chambers are having poor or inaccurate information amplified. And for those of us who spend their time predominately on social media and dealing with health care in Canada we need to remember the vast majority of physicians and other health care professionals have neither the time nor interest in social media, thereby limiting our ability to view what they are contributing.

Yet, I believe my Twitter worldview to be fairly balanced. For every picture of people ignoring social distancing and filling the beaches of Sydney, Australia or Clearwater, Florida there are pictures of dedicated health care workers going about their work.

Unfortunately the unprecedented situation we find ourselves facing this pandemic have caused some to forget the basic principles of being on social media – being transparent, accurate and respectful: And in the case of health care, respecting patient privacy and confidentiality especially if that person is a physician or healthcare worker infected as a result of their work.

With social media potentially being the window on the world for many of us for some time to come those principles of human conduct which have served us so well in other avenues of life should remain top of mind.

(Image from the CDC)







TikTok – Time for physicians to pay attention?


Meet Dr. Naheed Dosani (@NaheedD), a palliative care physician at the William Osler Health System north of Toronto and arguably Canada’s first TikTok physician superstar.

Since the beginning of the year, Dr. Dosani has been using the new social media platform to educate the public about palliative care and end-of-life issues. With more than 6,000 followers since January, his posts have more than 400,00 views and some of his videos have received more than 800 comments.

Describing itself as “a destination for short-form mobile videos”, TikTok is a Chinese-owned app that was launched in 2017 and has become hugely successful, especially among young people, as a place to post short-form lip-synch videos and act-out memes. Not surprisingly, in the short-time of its existence, some physicians and health care organizations have been quick to take advantage of TikTok to spread their messages.

Some of the medical profession’s initial forays into TikTok have proven controversial while other physicians in the US are garnering thousands of followers and millions of views for their humorous but informative posts.

As a recent New York Times article noted:

Although medical professionals have long taken to social media to share healthy messages or promote their work, TikTok poses a new set of challenges, even for the internet adept. Popular posts on the app tend to be short, musical and humorous, complicating the task of physicians hoping to share nuanced lessons on health issues like vaping, coronavirus, nutrition and things you shouldn’t dip in soy sauce. And some physicians who are using the platform to spread credible information have found themselves the targets of harassment.

One of the most high-profile of these cases was Dr. Nicole Baldwin, a pediatrician in Cincinnati, who had a TikTok post about vaccine-preventable diseases and countering the notion that vaccines cause autism. She received a number of threats through her social media accounts including one that said “Dead doctors don’t lie.”

The activity prompted one of medicine’s most astute students of social media, Dr. Bryan Vartabedian (@Doctor_V) to write several blogs (@33charts) about the platform and comment “When you look at what Dr. Baldwin went through after this simple video it might make you wonder why any doctor would participate in this kind of thing.”

He added:

So is this kind of education and personal exposure still a physician’s obligation? I have to wonder. Dr. Baldwin’s experience is not what health professionals deserve when they decide to join the public conversation. While bullying isn’t new, I always believed that the crowd would correct the rogue outliers – regulation wasn’t necessary. But the anti-vaccine misinformation warfare unit increasingly defies all normal social forces. 

In a follow-up post, he noted “nobody cares about TikTok. Just like no one cares about electricity,” noting it was the connection social media brings that people care about,and not the platform.

I recently asked Dr. Dosani (via Twitter of course) about his experiences with TikTok:

What prompted you to try Tik Tok in this way? 

I’ve always been active on social media, especially Twitter. Over the years, I’ve found it to be an important way to connect with likeminded people who are interested in issues related to palliative care and social justice in healthcare.

When I learned about TikTok, I was intrigued by the opportunity to build this community with general audiences in a creative and engaging way. Particularly with an audience so ready to learn more about the topics I am focused on as a physician.

What has the feedback been from your peers and others- good or bad?

 I have been encouraged by the response from my peers who also value the importance of public education on palliative care and social justice issues. Those of us working in palliative care routinely explain what we do with our patients, families and sometimes even health professionals.

This platform has provided a powerful opportunity to broaden the conversation through brief, bite-sized bits of credible information.

Do you think this platform works for a topic such as palliative care?

Absolutely. While dying and death is something that affects us all, palliative care is still a relatively unknown or misunderstood area of care. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to my posts so far. I have heard from thousands of people who have shared their support and their experiences. This encourages me to keep the conversation going and hopefully reach people who will benefit from a greater understanding of palliative care and social justice.

While Dr. Dosani is one of the first Canadian physicians I know of to take advantage of TikTok others have been quick to find time for the new platform.

Most recently the World Health Organization has partnered with TikTok to circulate information about COVID-19TikTokWHO

With every new popular social media platform there are some within medicine and health care who will be quick to sense its value. While some like Twitter prove of lasting value, others like Snapchat have proven much more limited in adding value.

As always, for TikTok, time will only tell. But physicians like Dr. Dosani are certainly help show the way.