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Docs Often Use Social Media on the Job: Survey

TUESDAY, Jan. 1 (HealthDay News) -- About one in four U.S. doctors uses social media daily to scan or explore medical information, according to a new study.

The survey of nearly 500 cancer specialists (oncologists) and primary-care doctors also found that 14 percent contribute new information via social media each day, said the researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.

Sixty-one percent of the doctors said they use social media once a week or more to look for information, and 46 percent said they contribute new information once a week or more, according to the study, which appeared recently in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

More than half of the respondents said they use only physician-only communities and only 7 percent said they use Twitter.

Oncologists were more likely to use social media to keep up with innovation, while primary-care doctors were more likely to use social media to get in touch with and learn from peers, the survey found.

Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said social media is beneficial, engaging and a good way to keep current on high-quality information. They also said social media helps them care for patients more efficiently and improves the quality of care they provide.

The surveys were conducted more than a year and a half ago, so it's likely that more doctors are using social media now, said study author Dr. Robert Miller, an assistant professor of oncology and oncology medical information.

Miller noted that there is rapid growth in the amount of information required for medical practice, and social media provides a good way for doctors to keep current.

"What did surprise us was the heavy use of online physician-only communities," Miller said in a Johns Hopkins Medicine news release. "It's possible that many physicians feel more comfortable with that type of social media instead of a more public space like Twitter or Facebook."

Further research is needed to find out how social media affects doctors' knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors, Miller said.

More information

Here is the American Medical Association's policy about doctors' use of social media.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, December 2012

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