Junior Members News - August 2011


By Ves Dimov, MD



Dear Colleagues,

This month I would like to cover the topic of social media and Internet tools for the allergist. I have been using social media tools for professional purposes for 7 years now, and so I speak from a personal perspective on this subject.

It certainly looks like social media is taking over the world. Facebook is referred to as a “country” with more than 750 million citizens. Twitter has more than 250 millions users. Google+ is the fastest growing web service in history and reached 25 million users just one month after its launch.

As an allergist, you may ask yourself: “Where is my place in all this? Do I have to be on Twitter? Do I have to use Facebook and YouTube to stay relevant?”

The answer is yes. Social media can provide a focused and time-efficient learning experience. Sharing relevant medical news with patients is just a click away. The paramount need is to protect patient privacy at all times and to comply with your employer and professional organization guidelines. You can be a physician and a social media "superstar" at the same time.

Here is how in 2 easy steps.

1. Use the Internet to learn and stay up-to-date in allergy and immunology.

  • WEB FEEDS such as Atom and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) are ways to “subscribe” to new content on a website when it has been posted. Subscribing to web feeds is great for receiving targeted updates from journals, websites, and allergy/immunology news that you don’t want to miss.

    RSS feeds can be separated into different categories, e.g. asthma, allergic rhinitis, etc. All you need is an RSS “reader” such as Google Reader, Feedly, or Flipboard. The readers function as an “inbox” for the web. You can get all of your subscribed-to sources delivered to one location instead of visiting several websites.

    Several areas of the WAO website include the option of subscribing to the content as web feeds through RSS, including the news archive of the WAO Junior Members Group (http://www.worldallergy.org/juniormembers/news/archive.php). Just look for the RSS image:
  • FOLLOW ALLERGY/IMMUNOLOGY BLOGS AND TWITTER ACCOUNTS: A selected list of high-yield blogs and Twitter accounts of board-certified allergists/immunologists includes:
    • @JuanCIvancevich (Juan C. Ivancevich, MD of Buenos Aires and WAO Web Editor-in-Chief)
    • @wheezemd (Michael Blaiss, MD, member of the WAO Board of Directors, Past President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
    • @DrSilge (Robert Silge, MD, allergist/immunologist, Salt Lake City, Utah)
    • @AllergyNet (John Weiner, allergist, clinical immunologist, Melbourne, Australia)
    • @MatthewBowdish (Matthew Bowdish MD, allergist/clinical immunologist, Colorado)
    • @allergistmommy (Sakina Bajowala, M.D, allergist/immunologist, Chicago, Illinois)
    • I also have a Twitter account at @Allergy.
  • PODCASTS for allergy and immunology education represent mobile-based MP3 audio and video files with automatic subscription. Free podcasts/videocasts are provided by many organizations including:

2. Share what you have learned via social media to educate patients and colleagues and promote your practice.

  • Share the most interesting updates you receive to Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn and Google+ (the "big four" of social networking). It can be done with one click using free web services such as Seesmic.com or HootSuite.com. You will build an audience and a lively professional circle over time.
  • Start a website for free. You can do this at WordPress.com or Blogger.com, for example.

Important consideration: risks of social media use by physicians
Physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just as they would in any other context. When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content first to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions (Source: AMA Policy: Professionalism in the Use of Social Media, 2011 - http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/meeting/professionalism-social-media.shtml).

Social media is here to stay and is fast becoming the dominant way of information consumption and sharing for the general population and patients. Allergists who share their expertise through social media will stay relevant and provide meaningful service to the general public and their patients.

I can personally confirm the benefits of the approach outlined above. I have used social media professionally for more than 7 years while on staff at Cleveland Clinic and the University of Chicago. During that time my websites have reached more than 7 million page views and attract daily 16,000 RSS subscribers, 8,200 Twitter followers and 2,600 visitors.

Other physicians are even more popular on social media and make the stats above look minuscule. You can be one of them. It benefits both your patients and your professional life.

The WAO Junior Members Group will be exploring this topic at length, and we look forward to lively discussions at our first in-person meeting and social events during the XXII World Allergy Congress (WAC 2011) in Cancún, México. Online registration is open (www.worldallergy.org/wac2011). We look forward to seeing you there!

To participate, coordinate, generate, and reciprocate on articles such as this, join the WAO Junior Members Group (Visit www.worldallergy.org/juniormembers/).

Ves Dimov, MD, is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, University of Chicago, Illinois, USA. He is a member of the WAO Junior Members Group, the WAO Web Editorial Board and Editor of WAO’s Small Airways Working Group subsite.