SIDEBAR: Social Media: A Generational Thing?

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Overheard Monday morning conversations about concerns expressed by patients and family members over the weekend triggered the idea for the article about the challenges of using social media to communicate with patients in the oncology setting, according to the article’s lead author, Lori Wiener, PhD. “I would ask, ‘Did [the patients] come in over the weekend?’ and was told, ‘No, I read it on Facebook,’” Dr. Wiener explained. “Many of our staff members are in their 20s and 30s, so I was thinking, is this a generational issue? And where are the boundaries here? Because the way that people communicate today is very different from the way they communicated 5, 10, or 15 years ago.”

Physicians should not shy away from using social media, as social media will continue to have an important and increasing role in health care. Reliance on social media by younger people can also mean that oncologists and other health professionals who don’t use social media may be cutting themselves off from an effective way of reaching adolescent, younger patients. “We always need to look at ways to reach adolescents and young adults, and they do frequently communicate electronically, “Dr. Wiener noted. “However, while utilizing the many benefits of social media, be mindful of the principles of patient confidentiality and privacy, respect for employers and colleagues, and patient-professional boundaries.” ■

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