Interim Meeting 2011

2011 Ethics Forum: Social Media and Physicians

Posted in Ethics Forum, Interim Meeting 2011, social media on December 9th, 2011 by Erica Noonan – Comments Off on 2011 Ethics Forum: Social Media and Physicians

Why should physicians pay attention to social media?

“Because that’s where your patients are going to be,” Dr. Kevin Pho told  more than 100 attendees of the Society’s  Ethics Forum,  “Social Media and Medicine: the Impact on Your Patients, Your Practice, and You,” held during last week’s  2011 Interim Meeting.

Since starting his popular online portal KevinMD.com in 2004,  Pho’s site has become one of the most influential medical sites on the Internet, with 7 million page views annually.

He pointed to research that shows 8 out of 10 web-using patients polled looked online for health information, but only a quarter of them checked the accuracy of the information.  An estimated 86 percent of doctors also said they go online for health information.

Patients are often overwhelmed, confused, and frightened by what they find,  Pho said.

“What they see online affects health decisions before they even see a doctor,”  he said.  “It’s up to physicians to un-scare our patients.  Doctors can’t lose the online PR battle or we will lose out status as health care authorities.”

Pho shared the stage with Arthur R. Derse, M.D., J.D., Director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, and professor of Bioethics and Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Derse discussed how frequently younger physicians are incorporating social media into their own lives.  He cited a study  indicating 65 percent of recent medical graduates were on Facebook and one-third of them had used the forum to reveal their sexual orientation, an episode of alcohol consumption, or a religious viewpoint.

About 33 percent of those doctors polled said they had received a friend request from a patient.  Of that group, 75 percent turned down the request – a recommended practice, Derse said.

Social media is a good thing, but has downsides, said Derse.

Derse told the audience of a cautionary tale involving a photo of doctors volunteering in Haiti smiling while posing with automatic weapons.  In that case, the photo –- later circulated on Facebook –- embarrassed those involved, he said.

Unprofessional images have caused some health care workers to be disciplined by their employers, or even fired, he said.


–Erica Noonan

2011 MMS Oration: Powerful Messages on Physicians and Health Care

Posted in Health, Health Policy, Health Reform, Interim Meeting 2011, Medicine, MMS Oration on December 2nd, 2011 by MMS Communications – 1 Comment

“Within my lifetime, our profession has changed profoundly.  The practice of  medicine is exciting but extremely complicated – scientifically, technologically, financially and academically.  And we are at a breaking point.”

So began the 200th Annual Oration of the Massachusetts Medical Society, delivered by Sean Palfrey, M.D., professor of pediatrics and public health at the Boston University School of Medicine and a practicing pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, at the MMS 2011 Interim Meeting on Friday, December 2.

His presentation carried some powerful messages, not only for his physician colleagues in attendance, but also for other leaders in health care.

Encouraging a renewal of the human touch along with a “necessary discipline” to use modern technology appropriately, Dr. Palfrey said “We are at a very difficult juncture, a point where we have an embarrassment of scientific and technological riches that we need to learn to use optimally, yet we provide health care outcomes that compare poorly with the rest of the world.  So this is a moment of huge opportunity as well as serious crisis.”

Dr. Palfrey’s Oration expanded on his viewpoint of how physicians should practice medicine today, first brought forward in a Perspective article, Daring to Practice Low-Cost Medicine in a High-Tech Era, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March.

Above all, Dr. Palfrey has a dual message for physicians.  First, doctors should reconsider how they treat every patient and think about the cost and value of what they do.  “Despite huge reservoirs of human warmth and dedication,” he says, “doctors are distancing themselves from their patients. Our ability to heal our patients depends both on our clinical skills and on our understanding of science and technology.  Our patients are not simply the sum of their data, as vast as that might be, they don’t really exist inside a computer, and we need to keep reminding ourselves that it is our cognitive skills as physicians that really make us good healers.”

Second, physicians must advocate for what’s right for their patients and their practices and work collaboratively with others to improve the health care system.  “We all need each other and should not see ourselves as competitors.  Just as we should be partnering with lawyers to solve the huge malpractice challenges, we need to work with nursing and many other health professional administrations to solve the country’s massive staffing and personnel shortages. We should be welcoming and eager to partner with them so that each of us can be using our knowledge and training most effectively and be more satisfied in our clinical roles.  This is not simply an issue of efficiency or financial resources or the national economy. It’s the future of quality health care.”

Dr. Palfrey’s perspective is worth the read. You may find the text of his Oration here.

Young to Mass. Doctors: Stay Involved, Be Heard on Payment Reforms

Posted in Health Policy, Interim Meeting 2011, Payment Reform on December 2nd, 2011 by Erica Noonan – Comments Off on Young to Mass. Doctors: Stay Involved, Be Heard on Payment Reforms

Massachusetts Medical Society President Lynda Young urged doctors to make themselves heard in the debate over health care costs, especially as the stakes rise in Washington D.C. over looming Medicare cuts

She spoke before the House of Delegates opening session at the MMS 2011 Interim Meeting, which began Friday, Dec. 2 at 9 a.m.

Dr. Young’s remarks focused on the “challenging times” in Massachusetts health care.  As pressures in Washington rise, closer to home increasing consolidation of hospitals and practices have left no part of the state untouched.

“Things are changing, and it’s happening very, very quickly,” said Dr. Young.

She recalled the historic day back in April 2006 at Faneuil Hall when the state’s health care reform bill was signed into law.  Five years later – it has exceeded the expectations of even its most enthusiastic supporters — less than 3 percent of the state’s population is uninsured.

But the job is by no means done, she said.

“This is what we have left for later – the relentless rise in the cost of health care – while the rest of the economy rose at a much slower rate, if at all,” said Dr. Young.

Massachusetts is making strides, however, she said. Health care premiums here are no longer the highest of fastest-growing in the country. Some 26 other states have seen their premiums rise faster than Massachusetts in recent years.

The Massachusetts medical community needs to keep up its advocacy work against efforts by government to impose rate setting, said Dr.Young.

Doctors must not walk away from this debate, although the politics and delays can be deeply frustrating.

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” she said, drawing laughs from the more than 200 attendees at the morning session.

“We must stay at the table in all these discussions.  Everyone wants us there and we are making a difference.’’

Read more details about the  MMS Interim Meeting Dec. 2-3

— Erica Noonan