Unlocking the true potential of social media within healthcare is a daunting task where obstacles and regulatory barriers are all too evident. Wouldn’t it be simple if all patients and healthcare professionals could easily identify and access accurate digital information and follow up with an informed online conversation about how best to proceed with treatment. As desirable as this scenario is, few of us dedicate ourselves to turning it into a reality.
"...when I wanted to find reliable medical resources online (blogs, podcasts, community sites, etc.), I realized how hard it is to find quality material."
We spoke with Bertalan Mesko who is committed to helping patients and medical professionals enter the web 2.0 world. Aside from being a medical doctor, Bertalan is also the administrator of the Wikipedia:WikiProject Medicine. In addition to his online resources, Scienceroll and Webicina, he has launched a unique course focused on social media and medicine demonstrating his unquestionable dedication to improving the landscape of health online.
His vision for the future fully incorporates social media in the form of diagnoses via social media, medical simulations for doctors to develop professionally via second life and the potential of finding organ donors through twitter.
According to Bertalan, medical professionals of the 21st century have to be ready to meet the expectations of e-patients and he believes e-patients will change the way medicine is practised and healthcare is delivered. Here, Bertalan shares what prompted him to set up his online resources and his vision for the future of medicine.
RA: Bertalan, thanks for participating in this interview. Can you tell me a little bit about your background please?
BM: I’m a medical doctor doing a PhD in the field of clinical genomics and focusing on several online activities. I launched the world’s first university course dedicated to social media and medicine (Med20course.com), launched the first free service that curates medical social media resources for patients and professionals at Webicina.com and have been writing an award-winning medical blog at Scienceroll.com.
RA: What inspired you to set up ScienceRoll and Webicina.com?
BM: Regarding my blog, Scienceroll, I wanted to share interesting news with people who I share the same interests with and later it became my online CV. Regarding Webicina, when I wanted to find reliable medical resources online (blogs, podcasts, community sites, etc.), I realized how hard it is to find quality material so I thought there should be a free service that curates social media resources both for empowered patients and for medical professionals in their own languages. It now features over 80 medical topics, over 3,200 medical resources in over 17 languages.
"Patients and their doctors can build a relationship based on trust even before first meeting in real life."
RA: How can modern technology help the medical professional in professional development?
RA: And how do you think this technology can help to improve patient-physician involvement?
BM: Social media is just about communication. The doctor must see the patient in real life, but communication is really changing. Patients and their doctors can build a relationship based on trust even before first meeting in real life. They can share useful information through online resources, but in order to use social media in an efficient and safe way, we must educate doctors in how to use it, and help patients understand how they can benefit from that - how they can become informed patients and equal partners in the treatment.
RA: What can HCPs do to prepare to meet the expectations of the educated e-patient?
BM: They have to learn how to deal with such patients and their internet-related questions. I teach such methods at our medical school (Med20course.com). They also have to know where they can find reliable medical resources and information online without Google search queries. They can also help the patients learn to assess the quality of medical resources while browsing the web. It’s not an easy and fast process but it’s really worth it.
" ...there are more and more medical professionals being active online..."
RA: What to you think of current physician and pharma online involvement?
BM: I believe they should have more online involvement. Physicians must take part in creating credible medical resources and pharma should be able to communicate with professionals via those online platforms doctors use day by day. I’m not saying everyone in the field of medicine should become web-savvy, but they should at least know about the issues related to social media and they should know there are solutions for the problems raised by e-patients. Although for this, they have to be at least a little active online.
RA: How do you see communication evolving in the future between pharma and the physician?
BM: As far as it strikes me, there are more and more medical professionals being active online and they now need pharma to be able to communicate with them through these social media platforms. They need information which in most cases only pharma has, but they need that on different platforms compared to the old tools pharma used to reach them. This trend seems to be quite clear, but pharma doesn’t seem to react to that too fast which is understandable though might make it harder later to catch up with the latest online trends.
RA: What do you think the future of medicine will look like?
BM: In a nutshell, this is my vision: healthcare is transparent, decision trees are available, online content is curated, patients are empowered, doctors are web-savvy, and collaborative barriers are gone forever.
RA: It’s been very interesting Bertalan, thank you for participating.
About the author:
Bertalan Mesko, MD graduated from the University of Debrecen, Medical School and Health Science center in 2009 and started PhD in the field of clinical genomics. He is the managing director and founder of Webicina.com LLC, the first free medical social media guidance service for patients and medical professionals. He speaks at prestigious conferences, covers online international events and is a health 2.0 consultant for pharma and medical companies. Healthspottr.com included him in the Future Health Top 100 list.
He is the author of the award-winning medical blog, Scienceroll.com and the educator of the Medicine and Web 2.0 university credit course which is the first of its kind worldwide.
He was mentioned in Al Jazeera, Nature Medicine, the New York Times, British Medical Journal and Wired Science, among others. He is a member of the Kairos Society.
Bertalan will be speaking at the upcoming Pharma e-Marketing Congress in Portugal this September.
What impact will e-patients have on how healthcare is delivered?