The @CMA_Docs election and Twitter redux

2018-01-09

Five years ago, I wrote about how the two physician candidates to be president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association (@Dr_ChrisSimpson and @GailYentaBeck) were effectively making use of social media and especially Twitter to get their message to prospective voters in Ontario.

It was the first time candidates to lead the national organization for Canada’s physicians had made significant use of social media in their campaigns.

Fast forward (well, slowly advance really) to 2018 and we see four physician candidates in Ontario once again using Twitter to campaign for the president-elect position. But what is spotlighted most significantly is the continued hesitancy of doctors to effectively use social media and digital tools. (The lead article in that 2013 magazine in which I featured Drs. Simpson and Beck talked about challenges for patients in using email to communicate with doctors in Canada – challenges that remain to this day).

Since 2013 there has been only limited use of social media in CMA election campaigns and this is the first time since then that Twitter is being used effectively on the campaign trail by all candidates.

Only one of the current candidates Dr. Darren Larsen (@LarsenDarren) had a long-standing and very strong presence on Twitter but the other three, Drs. Sandy Buchman (@DocSandyB), Atul Kapur (@Kapur_AK)and @PeakMD (Mamta Kautam) have wasted little time in getting up to speed on how to use the platform effectively.

This time around it is not only the candidates who are making use of Twitter but also some of their dedicated supporters and other physicians who are using Twitter to ask questions about where the candidates stand on various issues. The comments and discussions that have been prompted are all informative. Doctors from elsewhere in Canada who are not eligible to vote have been weighing in as have non-physicians.

Sadly it remains a debate in a vacuum… and without a hashtag. With about 34,000 doctors in Ontario eligible to vote in the election, a couple of the candidates still have only a few hundred followers on Twitter so it is unlikely many who will vote are paying attention to any of this discussion and debate. Which is a shame.

While social media use by Ontario doctors in the last year has represented somewhat of a nadir in intra-professional behavior (see my Broken Windows in the House of Medicine), this election so far has shown how a respectful exchange of ideas can take place on Twitter.

Certainly, the webpages of each of the candidates present a much more comprehensive picture of their platforms and positions on important issues. But Twitter and Facebook are being used by these doctors to interact and attempt to differentiate themselves from their colleagues and more voting Ontario doctors should be paying attention … really they should. With the disappearance of most objective medical journalism in Canada, social media is really one of the only places they can find out what their future leaders are saying.

It’s good to see Twitter in use again for this purpose but passing strange that it has taken five years to get back here. Drs. Simpson and Beck? In their own fashion they continue to be two of the most effective physician users of social media in Canada.

 

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Health professionals: Speak your mind, but…

Blogowl

A Saskatchewan nurse puts a post on her Facebook page detailing some concerns (and praise) about the care received by her grandfather while in a specific palliative care unit – Facebook post leaves Prince Albert, Sask. nurse charged with professional misconduct. She now faces disciplinary charges from the provincial registered nurses association for “violation of confidentiality, failure to follow proper channels, impact on reputation of facility and staff, failure to first obtain all the facts, and using status of registered nurse of personal purposes under the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses.

An Ottawa physician posts a blog – 2 Hospital Days – about her husband’s stay in a local hospital documenting the deteriorating conditions he experienced. She names the hospital and talks about how, with the health care system in general “staffing has been systematically decreased, equipment has not been replaced appropriately, buildings have been left to crumble and food and cleaning have been outsourced to the point that these do not meet the standards for nourishment and cleanliness that most health care professionals would want for themselves.” She is widely applauded for the post, especially by her peers.

Both of these cases are true and both have occurred within the last couple of weeks.

They demonstrate the full spectrum of the challenges and opportunities for health care practitioners of all disciplines who want to participate fully in the 21st century.

The former case provides a textbook vindication for nurses and physicians who are deeply suspicious of social media and are convinced their regulatory bodies have little tolerance for any practitioner foolish enough to use social media.

The latter case demonstrates that a credible health care practitioner voice can have a big impact through the use of personal narrative – a well-recognized strength of social media especially when it comes to telling patient stories.

It’s a complex landscape through which we walk.

All credible authorities acknowledge that extra care must be taken on social media to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. But does this extend to an individual who just happens to be a health care practitioner who wants to discuss what has happened to a family member?

Is it appropriate for regulatory authorities or associations who represent nurses to state that it is unethical for an individual to call the profession into question?

And what of issue of whistleblowing and the power of social media to document unsafe, unethical or just plain stupid activities within one’s own hospital or health region?

On January 27 at 9pm ET (time zone converter), let’s open up the #hcsmca floor for debate:

  • T1: Should health care providers have the same rights as others to express themselves on social media?
  • T2: Do you have a personal experience or knowledge of a health care colleague who has felt constrained from telling their story on social media or alternately have effectively used social media channels to document a concern?
  • T3: Is it valid to place additional constraints on health care professionals to maintain the credibility and integrity of those professions?

(This post also appeared on #hcsmca)

Photo credit: derfelphotogen on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/67UYEa