Heidi Roman, MD, FAAP
About two years ago I started writing more regularly- reflections on being a new mom, thoughts on my changing perspective as a pediatrician. I kept a notebook that quickly filled with musings that occurred to me during clinic, questions parents asked, things that came up with my son. I realized that a lot of other parents had the same kinds of questions I did. They too were Googling questions and looking for credible sources of information. So, I started actively creating and curating child health information via social media. I'm still a neophyte compared to many online pediatricians that I respect and follow. Nonetheless, I'm a relative veteran compared to most of my colleagues. I’m often asked about how and why I do this. When I answer that I think being online is making me a better pediatrician, I get some curious and quizzical looks. I admit that I didn’t expect it when I started all of this, but being involved in social media is shifting the way I think about medicine and ultimately making me a better doctor. Here’s how.
I write more. I write, on average, a post a week. Writing has made me a better doctor and mom, in many ways. When a parent asks a question on a topic I’ve recently researched and written about I can direct them to useful resources without a moment’s hesitation. And, writing makes me read more too. I now have a set of go-to sources for quality child health information that I am well acquainted with and that I can use quickly in clinic or to research a topic.
I think more. Writing makes me think. Insightful comments from readers make me think. Listening to the amazing online community of patients makes me think. My point of view is challenged. My mind is opened. I’m a better doctor.
I make more connections. After I started blogging, I joined Twitter. I thought it might be a good way to share my work. But, I’ve found that, for me, Twitter is so much more. For me, Twitter is about the thoughtful, generous, intelligent community of people that I follow. Every day, they bring me the latest information in medicine, child health, parenting, and general news. They enable me to say to my patients’ parents, yes I did read that study on sleep that just came out and here are some thoughts. Or, there are some new car seat regulations and here’s what you need to know.
I am a more effective child advocate. By being more connected, I am both more aware of the current policy issues affecting kids and more effective at spreading the word.
I’ve started to become more “digitally literate.” There is no debating that this is where healthcare is going. It’s good to be in the thick of it.
I have more hope for healthcare. Thanks to social media I have met,people both online and in real life who are working every day to make healthcare better. People with innovative ideas and incredible drive who I am excited to join. People who give me hope that, with the help of new technology and hard work, we will improve our broken healthcare system.
Sure, there are limitations to social media. Nothing replaces face-to-face communication. I’ve also learned to take breaks now and then. Regain perspective. I’ve learned to dip in and out of the social media stream and not worry too much about missing something. If it’s important or compelling, it’ll come around again. I’m certain that the ways we share information will continue to change and evolve. Perhaps, this will all sound quaint in five years. But, for now, I think all of this communication and knowledge sharing is a good thing for patients, their families and for me.
Editor’s Note: For AAP Members, the Academy has a wonderful webpage entitled, “Making the Most of SocialMedia” This resource is full of helpful tips and advice so login and check it out.