Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mike Sevilla, Family Physician, Blogger, Podcaster and medical social media enthusiast. Mike started blogging back in 2006 as Doctor Anonymous and can now be found on Family Medicine Rocks.com. He is well known in the medical community as an advocate of medical social media. (Interview is not verbatim.)
How do you see Social Media adding to the power of the participatory medicine and e-patient movement?
drmikesevilla Patient support groups are one of the big uses that have been around for a long time. Social media is getting more and more people connected on an international level. Patients can then hear how their condition is treated in other countries. I don’t create that kind of material but I do a lot of listening and learning from those groups.
As new technology and forms of social media come out it’s going to add more and more momentum to the participatory medicine movement.
On the flip side, there are doctors that have concerns about participatory medicine, does the use of social media add to those fears?
drmikesevilla Some doctors are afraid because they don’t understand social media. They have concerns about liability, they don’t want to get sued. But there is a lot of opportunity for patient education and marketing. It’s a place where you can have a voice in your field.
How much of the resistance is a generational thing?
drmikesevilla There is some of that. Ever since e-records got pushed on us, there are those who think “this means more computers, I hate computers.” But another big problem is that there is no payment model for it. If doctors are going to put time into it, some do want to be paid. There are some pilot studies around that right now, but until that’s settled it will continue to be a big hurdle for a lot of doctors.
What rules do you have in place to protect yourself when you’re on Facebook or Twitter?
drmikesevilla I will friend patients on Facebook that I’ve known for a long time but not new patients. I do not conduct any patient care through social media. I’ll tell them to call or come in. I live in a relatively small town and if I get approached at the grocery store with a medical question it’s the same thing. I say “I don’t have my prescription pad with me, let’s talk Monday when we can take this into a more private setting.”
How about rules for clinic or hospital pages?
drmikesevilla They need to be checked every day. I tell a lot of doctors who say they don’t have time, find someone on your staff who does social media, you don’t have to do it all. If it’s a patient with a specific question they need to be directed to take [the conversation] off-line.
What tips do you have for those e-patients out there when they are searching the web to be sure the information they get is credible?
drmikesevilla A lot of patients ask me if there is some kind of seal of approval for medical web sites, but I think the best thing to do is dialogue with your doctor about it. It’s a great opportunity for our patients to push us a little. I have patients bring in information they find on line all the time and ask what I think about it. It’s the patient who finds information on line then doesn’t come in to see me that I worry about.
What are the big areas of misinformation you most commonly run into?
drmikesevilla Parents who are concerned about immunizations, anti-biotic use and flu-shots. That is why doctors need to get their voices out there as well.
You’ve been blogging since 2006, that’s a long time. Many doctors are hesitant to blog because they are worried about having enough content.
drmikesevilla If they are seeing patients everyday patient encounters often stir up content. But of course I only write about the content of the encounter, not the patient his/her self. There is always seasonal stuff you can write about, flu shots for example. There can be a community event, like an outbreak of meningitis at a local high school. There are also national events like health policy changes, or food recalls. If you keep an eye on what’s going on you will find a lot to talk about.
How much do you see social media as a tool in the healthcare reform issue?
drmikesevilla It can be a big tool in that. I write a lot [in my blog] about advocacy issues. I had some huge posts last time there were cuts being made. Going into this next election cycle it’s going to be really important for doctors to have their voices out there. Special interest groups are going to be using social media, we need to be advocating for ourselves and our patients to.
One thing you’d like to add for our readers?
drmikesevilla Time. I get asked by doctors a lot about how much time social media takes. A common misconception is that you have to create content right away. I tell them to just listen. Most doctors have a Facebook page to keep up with family, so subscribe to the New York Times or JAMA. Some don’t even realize they can do that. It’s not all or nothing, start with five minutes a day. As you get comfortable you can add more.
You can read, follow, friend and listen to Dr. Mike at