Are Rheumatologists Resistant to Social Media Technology?

Is rheumatology not as hip as other medical specialties? Is the average rheumatologist older and resistant to new technology?

For many if not most Americans, social media has overtaken our lives and the ways in which we interact with each other. Whereas once we may have gone over to a friend’s house for dinner on a Friday night to chat about our weeks and fill each other in on major life events, we now update our friends, families, and a Web-full of strangers in real time on every detail of our lives. Getting a drink with colleagues after work? Must update Facebook status. Considering a job change? Post about it on LinkedIn. Eating a turkey sandwich for lunch? All of your Twitter followers are dying to hear about it.

While teenagers and young adults have grown up with text messages, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and the like, the larger segment of the population—the adult segment of the population—is constantly being faced with new technologies to learn, embrace, or reject. Some professionals feel that in order to be relevant and to compete with younger and more tech-savvy employees, they must embrace the world of social media. Others shudder at the thought of the intrusion of privacy and the need to always be accessible. For physicians, the idea of 24/7 accessibility can be particularly daunting. Privacy laws can also prevent them from discussing matters of their daily life. However, there is also the possibility for networking with other physicians, seeking out clinical information and opinions, and increasing professional exposure. Sites such as Sermo, doc2doc, RelaxDoc, and Ozmosis aim to create a community where physicians can go to read breaking medical news, get opinions from their peers, or just enjoy a good doctor joke.

In general social media use amongst physicians seems to be catching on, at least in certain fields. Rheumatology seems to be one of the last specialties to join the party. This year’s American College of Rheumatology annual meeting was covered by only a handful of Twitterers, and the ACR actually denied media credentials to MedPage Today for online coverage. A Google search for “rheumatology blog” turns up only a few good sites and most hits from “rheumatology website” are journals or society homepages. Replace “rheumatology” with “dermatology” or “oncology” and the results are endless. Dermatologists appear to love posting images of the most alarming, gruesome, or unusual looking skin disorders they encounter and challenging their peers to identify the ailment. Oncologists seek opinions from other physicians about the best treatment regimes, read clinical trials news, and help with diagnoses. Rheumatologists, it seems, just read the latest news and move on with their day.

Is rheumatology not as hip as other medical specialties? Is the average rheumatologist older and resistant to new technology? Or maybe rheumatologists just already know what’s best for their patients. Whatever the reason, it seems clear that social media is the way of the future, and if rheumatologists want their specialty to continue to attract the best and the brightest of medical students, they would be wise to throw their privacy concerns to the wind and start a blog.