For Dr. Victor Montori, a Mayo Clinic diabetes doctor and researcher, Twitter and the avenue that this healthcare social media platform provides can sometimes be cathartic.
Montori, who is from Peru, is regularly appalled by what he describes to be the “tremendous corruption in healthcare, with for-profit forces working in conflict with patients’ interests.”
And Twitter provides a useful outlet for Montori. (His Twitter handle is @vmontori)
“Too often I found myself outraged and feel the need to express my thoughts and disseminate the discussion for others to take notice,” Montori said in an email. “That is a dynamic of participation that has become an integral part of my identity as a professional and as a patient-centered physician.”
Usually some of the tweets, which typically begin with “Corruption in healthcare,” are links to longer articles. For instance one from June links to a provocative post about whether research ethics boards should be allowed to run as for-profit entities.
But sometimes when tackling the serious issue of corruption in healthcare, Montori throws in a bit of humor as well. A tweet from April read: “Clinical inertia as safeguard to drug-intensive (corrupt) style of medicine, like nonviolent resistance for docs!”
The tweet linked to an article from the Journal of American Medical Association that talked about the clinical benefits of clinical inertia, which is defined as the inadequate intensification of therapy by the provider.
Having such a patient-centric approach is something that Montori views as integral to a doctor’s professional obligation. That is one reason he wants other doctors to begin using social media.
“Staying outside of these discussions and failing to advocate for a healthcare system that meets the needs of patients as its primary goal are inconsistent with standards of professional medical action in my view,” Montori said.
Somehow, I suspect that he views advocating for patients as a moral imperative, too.
Yet his concern for patients does not mean that he runs counter to traditional patient-doctor interaction guidelines when communicating on social media. Privacy must be protected at all times, and that means contact with individual patients needs to be taken offline.
But the Mayo Clinic has opened up new possibilities for clinicians to communicate with groups of patients by launching a social network of its own.
That can now facilitate doctors and patients’ “discussions about disease and care experience will take place with adequate protection of patient identity and free of commercial bias and advertisement,” Montori said.