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Why every GP should consider tweeting

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Baroness Susan Greenfield, the leading brain physiologist, writer and broadcaster, spoke to the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow earlier this month about the perils of living in a cyberworld.

She believes social networking is a kind of Wild West. She is on record as warning that there is little accountability online, where relationships are not face to face, there is no eye contact and there is a lack of ‘real’ or ‘proper’ human relationships – and she has argued those who use social media are missing out on real life. This is the kind of thing she told the assorted doctors at the conference.

A couple of days later I sat alongside RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada and Dr Ben Riley, RCGP medical director for e-learning. Behind us was a massive screen filled with tweets from people in the audience, from people elsewhere in the UK and people on the other side of the world – all talking about social media and medicine.

I’m not very good at large meetings; big groups are difficult for me to navigate and it’s unpleasant to be faced with hundreds of people who all seem to know each other really well and are all having a fabulous time.

But, thanks to Twitter, I did know lots of people, and I found them, and they were just as interesting and kind as their interactions online had suggested. And, unlike Baroness Greenfield’s vision, which suggests social media isolates and dehumanises us, Twitter had made introductions and enabled me to meet people in a way that was quite wonderful.

The real dehumanising force

Back in our surgeries, we are harried by the pressure to fill in PHQ-9s – even though there is no evidence for us to use them in the way we are pushed to – and asked by secretaries to fill in new referral forms – even though we may just have written a very long and detailed referral on an ordinary piece of paper that has somehow been judged not acceptable. Then we find our partners have been pressed into house calls and prescription signing, and we are back in surgery again.

It is in the NHS that human interaction is being squeezed out. There has not been much time – any time – to discuss the latest in whooping cough vaccines for pregnant women, or the headline that tomatoes can prevent dementia, or the advert in the Guardian for a director of intelligence and a director of insight for commisssioning.

The NHS is being slowly dissolved and we are wasting time ticking boxes for contract points, many of which we know are pointless.

On Twitter there are GPs who are passionate about the NHS, about being GPs, about stopping doing things that don’t work and doing things that do.

The RCGP conference allowed me to meet some of these doctors, who I knew in many ways already.

Social media allows us to interact with leaders, to influence and direct them; it makes politicians and journalists more accountable.

It also allows GPs to talk quickly and easily; doctors on Twitter are able to inspire, educate and support each other. We – us GPs – are our own enormous resouce.

As for what Baroness Greenfield had to say? I couldn’t disagree more; social media has the power to create a morality and humanness in healthcare that the health act now threatens to dissolve.

So, if you want something for your PDP next year that involves learning from your peers, I’d make a suggestion. Go on, let out a tweet.

Dr Margaret McCartney is a GP in Glasgow. You can follow her on Twitter @mgtmccartney

 

Readers' comments (15)

  • Mark Struthers

    Of course, the great thing about Twitter is that you can block tweets you don't like. Eh, Margaret? And if blog comments make you feel uncomfortable, you can block those too.

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  • Bob Hodges

    A tweet by Ricky Gervais summed it for me:

    "Following someone on Twitter & then complaining about what they tweet about is like stalking someone & complaining that they walk too fast. "

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  • Mark Struthers

    Margaret says,

    "On Twitter there are GPs who are passionate about the NHS, about being GPs, about stopping doing things that don’t work and doing things that do."

    Has Margaret ever considered reinvigorating a local homeopathy service or curtailing the national vaccination program? If not, why not?

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  • What has
    Mark got against Margaret.?this is supposed to be a debAte about twittering not whittering.

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  • Dear Mark
    I asked you to stop commenting on my blog because you made incredibly rude, nasty and potentially libellous comments. I know you've also done this elsewhere so I haven't taken it personally. You might want to know that this was a very rare thing for me to do. And that's it: I'm not going to respond to you any more.

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  • Mark Struthers

    "I asked you to stop commenting on my blog because you made incredibly rude, nasty and potentially libellous comments."

    You know that's not true, Margaret! And being honest is a very important quality in the doctor. You blocked me because I touched a raw nerve about vaccination safety and the nasty way that the medical profession has reacted to the voicing of safety concerns ... and the efficacy of vaccines. What about the evidence, Margaret?

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  • Mark Struthers

    @susanne

    I have a lot of respect for Margaret: she writes very well and effectively and has many valuable things to say. However, she is flawed. Her Achilles heel is vaccination and particularly the MMR, where her eyes are wide shut and her thinking rigidly anti-science. Why? Margaret is also unbalanced in her hostility to homeopathy. I find these attitudes deeply unendearing. Sorry!

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  • EVIDENCE for efficacy of homeopathy-LACKING
    EVIDENCE for benefit vs HARMS of immunisation-OVERWHELMING

    Imagine a world with no immunisation. Imagine a world with no homeopathy.

    Margaret, keep going with the voice of sanity and scientific reason

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  • Mark Struthers

    Only twits need to shout their tweets

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  • Back to the subject of Margaret's blog - thanks Margaret, for a very well written and positive piece about people finding others to share their passions and what's on their minds. I'm very interested in how health care organisations are using social media for managing knowledge, both within and outside the organisation; taking account of the fact that people want to share only certain information with certain audiences. If you/your readers have good examples/thoughts on this, I'd welcome them contacting me - @neilshashoua or neilshashoua@gmail.com

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