Engaging the Family Medicine Community Through Social Media

Benjamin Miller, PsyD University of Colorado, Denver

This past December at the Conference on Practice Improvement, I had the opportunity to experience one of the most significant benefits of social media—the connections. Many of us involved in social media often talk about the importance of engagement. We know that without engaging, there is not a high likelihood we will establish a relationship with the person we are connected with.

Mark Ryan, MD, has written about how his conference experience was enhanced through relationships he established through Twitter. Social media has power, and this power can be realized through the meaningful connections and ongoing engagement in a larger health care community.

And make no mistake, social media can play a significant role in family medicine.

For example,

  1. Social media allows for everyone, everywhere to get involved
  2. Social media allows for timely action (advocacy – take SOPA as an example)
  3. Social media allows for seamless communication (eg, between providers, patients and providers)
  4. Social media technologies are often the first step in creating meaningful relationships
  5. Social media can be an organizer
  6. Social media can disrupt.

To offer a real life health care example of the power of social media in family medicine, consider what happened when Mike Sevilla, MD, used the social media platform to raise awareness around the pending cuts for graduate medical education. Mike’s #saveGME campaign was prolific. He was able to simultaneously educate masses through Twitter and Facebook the importance of these funds and encourage them to act. He used his connections through social media to make an impact on something that was important to him as a family physician and educator.

Looking back at Mark’s post and seeing what happened with Mike’s advocacy effort, I began to understand the true power of social media—what happens when we use these social media relationships to actually connect. What happens when these online “social” connections lead to real life engagement? What happens when we meet in real life and see that behind that avatar there is a person who can make a difference—a person that we can relate to?

While many involved in social media may have made this connection some time ago, it was not until the Conference on Practice Improvement while sitting at a table with Fred Trotter (@fredtrotter), Gregg Masters (@2healthguru), Jay Lee (@familydocwonk) and Mark Ryan (@RichmondDoc) that the true feeling of connection and how we could collectively change something in health care was felt.

In your family medicine role, are you connected to the health care community that exists outside of the walls of your residency? If not, you may want to test out those waters sometime soon as you never know what meaningful connections you will make that can help shape the future of family medicine.

2 responses to “Engaging the Family Medicine Community Through Social Media

  1. Good commentary, Ben. I would like to expand one of your comments, however: “In your family medicine role, are you connected to the health care community that exists outside of the walls of your residency?”

    This assumes everyone teaching in Family Medicine departments is doing so through a residency. However, I would argue that FM teaching happens in a number of venues that STFM members are involved in. These include FM clerkships, electives, pre-clinical coursework, etc. I would even include pre-med recruiting, with an eye on identifying and promoting present or future applicants who are likely to enter primary care!

    So, I would take your line and rephrase as: “In your family medicine role, are you connected to the health care community that exists outside of the walls of your institution and your role(s) within it?” Behavioral scientists from residencies can and should be talking to decision-makers and teachers engaged in medical school curricula; clerkship directors should be talking to residency directors; clinicians and teachers should be talking to researchers; and so forth.


  2. Chris – thanks so much for the comment! Yes, you are correct that family medicine teaching goes far beyond the residency. Good catch and excellent point!

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