Why does connecting on social media matter to you?
Social media are powerful communications tools that can be a great help, but I don’t think we know how to use it well yet. I often learn how to be a better doctor by listening to others. My hope is that I can help make it useful for people’s health. Engaging with others who have that same purpose has been both rewarding and humbling. But I think it does make me a better doctor and a better person.
Can you really counsel patients online?
Strictly, no. I don’t think online is the place to practice medicine. So giving formal counseling isn’t currently something I’m comfortable with. I do think I can provide insight based upon my knowledge of cancer care. But my aim is to do it as a friend or well-informed citizen that happens to be a doctor. Aside from secure email I don’t interact with my patients online, and I don’t want my doctor to do it for me outside accepted, safe channels.
What is your responsibility beyond the patients you see in your office?
It is my responsibility as a doctor to keep up with new skills and tools that may help others. Social media are tools; so it’s my responsibility to learn more about the risks and benefits of using them. That is one way that I see doctors can become more engaged as ethical citizens who stand up for what’s right in society beyond clinic. Social media help me less in clinical practice than in asserting myself as an engaged citizen.
Where can patients find reliable information in your specialty?
Radiation oncology is commonly confused with diagnostic radiology or medical oncology; it is neither. The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has a good website for general information, RTAnswers.org. It has some good disease-specific resources and some videos.
The National Cancer Institute also has excellent information. Other options:
This last resource is one I put together to aggregate what I’ve been able to find; if you have any suggested additions I’m open to adding them.
Matthew S. Katz, MD, is the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Lowell General Hospital and a partner in Radiation Oncology Associates, PA. He is former Chair of Communications Committee for the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and external advisor for Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media. He is co-moderator of the #radonc journal club and volunteers for the American Society of Clinical Oncology and Massachusetts Medical Society. His main areas of interest are cancer care, patient education and health empowerment. Follow him on twitter: @subatomicdoc.