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Social Media,Texting & the Teenage Patient

10/25/2012

Do you use social media or text messaging to communicate with your teenage patients?

An interesting article posted by the The New York Times addresses the benefits and concerns of utilizing these outlets.

Jan Hoffman of The New York Times writes,  medical practices are increasingly putting up Facebook pages to promote business and join their community of patients. By adding social media, pediatricians and clinics are now capturing teenagers, some of their most elusive patients. Unlike younger children, who may see pediatricians several times a year, teenagers visit doctors infrequently. Generally healthy, they may stop by only for health forms for work permits, driver’s licenses and sports teams.

But even as they insist on their growing independence, conflating privacy with secrecy, teenagers can be vulnerable to high-stakes, impulsive behavior. Monitoring them carefully but respectfully is tricky for doctors as well as parents. So while a decade ago practitioners saw the Internet as the enemy, a tool for demanding patients who brandished printouts during visits and called at all hours with obscure questions, adolescent-medicine specialists and pediatricians are now turning technology to their advantage.

The payoff, say doctors who text, tweet and post, is a better-informed teenager who finds social media a faster and less embarrassing means to have questions asked and answered.

But using social media also raises questions about doctor-patient boundaries, privacy laws and confidentiality. Should doctors “friend” young patients on Facebook? What rules should doctors establish about texting with teenagers: content, hours and expectations of speedy replies? How should doctors take into account the reality that teenagers’ cellphones are often missing in action, only to be found — and pored over — by friends and parents? For these reasons, many doctors stop short of texting.

What is your opinion? Do you feel social media and texting is beneficial to the patient? Comment below and let us know your thoughts. Read more about how different health centers are using social media and text programs to send patient’s tips, reminders about medications and appointments, answer patient questions and more. Click here to read entire story.

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