Doctors Avoid Social Media at Work, and Who Can Blame Them?

7/10/14Follow @gthuang

Forty-four percent of U.S. doctors surveyed don’t use social media for work, and 29 percent say they don’t use it at all. The top reasons cited? Concerns about privacy and time, two notions that most people gave up on long ago.

Those findings are in the latest report from MedData Group, a healthcare marketing company in Topsfield, MA. The report surveyed 257 physicians in the U.S., across specialties and practice sizes, in June.

Doctors’ attitudes toward Web and mobile technologies will play a big role in the evolution of healthcare. We previously reported on physicians’ concerns about connected health and the challenges they see around Web tools and resources for healthcare.

When it comes to social media, the top sites that doctors do seem to use for work are LinkedIn, online physician communities, and Facebook (see chart below). The specialities that reported the most use of online physician communities were ophthalmology, geriatrics, psychiatry, otolaryngology, and oncology.

Social media that doctors use (image: MedData Group)

The top reasons for using social media professionally, the report said, were to keep up with healthcare news and engage in online discussions with peers. But far more respondents said they use social media for personal reasons than for any work purpose:

How doctors use social media (image: MedData Group)

More than half the doctors said patient privacy concerns and lack of time were reasons why they don’t use social media for work. Liability was also a concern, and, interestingly, 40 percent simply believe social media brings little professional value to them:

Doctors' concerns about social media (image: MedData Group)

A few anecdotal responses to the MedData survey suggest that doctors are concerned about their own privacy, not just their patients’. At least one said that outright, while others wrote of social media, “I worry it may allow patients into my private life,” and “I want to keep my social life separate from my professional life.”

If only that were possible in the digital era.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.