To hurt or to heal – what is your intention?
-Written by Dr. Tejal Lathia
Social media can be described very aptly as a scalpel. It is sharp, shiny, attractive, and very effective. However, it can be used either to commit murder or perform lifesaving surgery!
The intention of the one who wields the scalpel decides whether it hurts or heals.
A few months back, a forensic medicine doctor shared a picture on social media of a thief who died accidentally while committing a robbery. Not only had this doctor shared the images but captioned it with a sentence saying that it was “well-deserved” for the thief to die in this horrific manner. That was his punishment for his misdeeds.
I must have missed the MBBS lecture where doctors (of the living or the dead) were made judge and jury.
It left me deeply angry.
Very often I see videos made by doctors on myriad health conditions. These videos and posts, often on minor health conditions, sound ominous and life-threatening, all doom and gloom. That if treatment is not taken that VERY MINUTE, life will be over. This has a huge negative impact on the way people experience their conditions, how they experience health care.
Our motto is to comfort always… not scare people to death (or ill health).
Another kind of post making the rounds recently is of a doctor who has just opened a new clinic. He keeps posting pictures of letters he has received from politicians, celebrities, other famous doctors congratulating him for the new clinic. Not only is this slightly hilarious but seems to imply that ingratiating politicians is somehow imperative for a successful practice.
How you treat your patients (literally and figuratively) decides success!
Lastly, the doctor-pharma nexus is something that affects how people view us to a large extent. Highlighting talks sponsored by pharmaceutical companies on various social media platforms reignites the suspicions people have whenever we write a prescription – Is the doctor prescribing this medicine because I really need it? Or is the doctor paid to write this tablet?
In short, when we use social media, we must think very carefully about what we are writing and saying. What impact it has on the people who view it. What impression does it leave about healthcare and its professionals in the minds of people.
There are lot of GREAT ways to use social media though!
Battling misinformation making the rounds on social media by so-called wellness gurus and men-in-orange clothes! Providing right information about a medical condition, explaining the safety and necessity of a medication, giving hope that timely and appropriate treatment leads to good outcomes. These are the messages that social media can easily convey for us.
Giving right information to combat misinformation!
I was very reluctant to use social media, I felt vaguely guilty that somehow, I was letting my profession down or compromising my integrity. I finally started using social media on the advice of my friend – a customer experience expert. She very nicely explained to me that people are looking for doctors who align with their health needs. By having a presence on social media, people can know more about the doctor, their qualifications, training, and treatment approach. It is the right of a person to know who is treating them.
Helping people find the right doctor for their needs!
Lastly, in a world of doctor-patient violence, constant media coverage on the “money-mindedness” of doctors, telling stories of my experiences in the clinic are a way for me to showcase the human side of doctors. Our frustrations when we can’t help a patient, our anger at neglect and abuse of the elderly, our heart break at losing a patient we have seen for decades. How we participate in the triumphs and tribulations of the people we treat – a child married, a spouse lost, a daughter divorced. Every single day in the clinic is akin to a lifetime. The constant threat of burnout, poor health, depression and suicide among doctors. Time not spent with family, missed birthdays and anniversaries, entire youth spent in hospital corridors.
Letting people get a glimpse of what it is to be a doctor.