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Healthcare and Social Media

Einstein Faculty Receive Grant to Teach Social Media Professionalism in Medicine

September 10, 2012 – (Bronx, NY) – Social media is increasingly popular but engaging in its proper use can prove confusing and challenging – especially in the medical and healthcare arenas. Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University has been awarded a two-year grant to educate faculty members and medical students on using social media appropriately and effectively. Einstein is one of four medical schools in the United States to be selected for the 2012 Education and Training to Professionalism Initiative by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

Elizabeth Kitsis, M.D., M.B.E., Martha Grayson, M.D.
Elizabeth Kitsis, M.D., M.B.E. (left), Martha Grayson, M.D. (right)
According to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 66 percent of online adults use social networking sites.  Yet a survey of U.S. medical schools deans found that 60 percent of schools reported incidents of unprofessional content posted on the Internet by their students.

"The next generation of doctors needs to understand how social media can be a double-edged sword," said principal investigator Elizabeth Kitsis, M.D., M.B.E., who is director of bioethics education and assistant professor of epidemiology & population health and of medicine at Einstein. "On the one hand, it can be a great way to provide personalized medical education for patients. However, great attention must be paid to maintaining the principles of professionalism, such as privacy and confidentiality of the physician-patient relationship." Accordingly, the title of the grant is "Social Media and Medical Professionalism: Perfect Match or Perfect Storm?"

"The next generation of doctors needs to understand how social media can be a double-edged sword."

-- Elizabeth Kitsis, M.D., M.B.E..

"Since the current generation of medical educators may not share the same familiarity with social media as our students, our program first focuses on bridging that gap with a comprehensive faculty development program on social networking," explained Martha Grayson, M.D., co-investigator and Einstein's senior associate dean for medical education. "But our overarching goal is to teach medical students how they can use social media in a way that will benefit patient care while maintaining professional standards."

As part of the core student curriculum, first-year medical students will analyze their social media footprints, noting on-line postings that could be perceived as unprofessional, such as improper photos or the use of inappropriate language. Second-year medical students will repeat the process, highlighting changes in their social media presence. As part of a clinical skills course on patient interaction and taking patient histories, first- and second-year students will learn how to respond to possible social networking situations, such as a patient asking to become "Facebook friends."

Third- and fourth-year medical students will interview Bronx community members in order to assess how the local patient population uses social networks and how online communication might help improve patient health. 

"Ultimately, the research into how our patients use these tools will help us develop a social media curriculum that can be integrated into Einstein's medical education program," said Dr. Grayson.