Infectious Disease

How can ID clinicians use social media precisely and successfully?

January 31, 2021

2 min read

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While the rapid exchange of information is critical to adapting to global threats like COVID-19, it can lead to inaccuracies. Therefore, it is crucial for infectious disease specialists to become familiar with the use of social media, the researchers said.

Healio spoke to Talia H. Swartz, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Assistant Dean of MD / PhD Education at the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai in New York on how ID clinicians can most effectively and appropriately use social media and what topics to watch out for.

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Infectious disease clinicians can use social media to build public trust, curate engaging content, and feature experts and new research in the field.
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Swartz and colleagues wrote an article on the subject that was posted on the Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Talia H. Swartz

Q: ID clinicians seem to be very active on social media. How can they Help spreading information during a pandemic?

ON: It is important that ID clinicians be able to provide a voice for evidence-based practice, especially during this pandemic when there has been a large amount of misinformation. In the early months of the pandemic, there was a rush to try experimental therapeutics. Early publications included small sample sizes with no rigorous randomized controlled trials, which is the best way to test the effects of treatments. With so many early studies published without validation of the data, it was difficult to keep track of which studies were important and which were not. Individuals reading the literature can provide service by processing this information and providing appropriate context and analysis to inform colleagues and the public.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media?

ON: The use of social media offers numerous advantages: It is fast, far-reaching, crosses time zones and international borders and enables dialogue. The drawbacks include the fact that there are minimal barriers to publishing content that is not peer-reviewed and therefore subjective and not always reliable. Short postings are also not detailed and nuanced and can lose important information in communication.

Q: How can clinicians maximize benefits and minimize disadvantages?

ON: Careful consideration should be given to posting information that is verified by trusted authorities. Clinicians unfamiliar with social media should slowly learn how to navigate and rely on verified sources.

Q: What are the first steps a clinician who isn’t on social media should take before stepping in?

ON: Clinicians unfamiliar with social media can first compile a list of trusted individuals and organizations to track and monitor their posting habits. These people are often referred to as “lurkers” who follow but do not post their own content. Once individuals are comfortable using social media, they can “like” or repost content. The next step would be posting original content that should be in line with that person’s personal brand. A personal brand is content that matches that person’s background, education, expertise and passion. To build a following, individuals tend to curate content that is consistent and reliable.

Q: You provide guidance on social media for ID professionals in this article. What’s the best advice you can offer in a few sentences?

ON: Our article summarizes three main ways ID professionals can use digital strategies to advance the infectious disease field: 1) building and maintaining public trust in the profession by promoting and disseminating trustworthy evidence-based guidelines and literature; 2) curating content to attract a defined audience to a focused mission, including posting content that is consistent with the individual’s professional mission (i.e. patient care, advocacy, research, education); and 3) highlight the value of the infectious disease field by presenting experts in the field, promoting the work of colleagues, and increasing the contributions of those in the field who work in support of this mission.

References:

Marcelin JR et al. Open the Infect Dis forum. 2021; doi: 10.1093 / ofid / ofab027

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