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How Do Oncologists Use Social Media, and What Information Are They Seeking? | ASCO Connection

A new study in the Journal of Oncology Practice (JOP), explores how oncologists use social media. The study, “Social Media Use Among Physicians and Trainees: Results of a National Medical Oncology Physician Survey,” sheds light on the kind of professional knowledge clinicians seek when visiting sites such as Twitter and Facebook and identifies barriers to using social media. 
The study, published online, ahead of print, October 6, was carried out by a team of researchers from cancer centers across Canada and was designed to address a gap in the research: nearly all previous studies on the nexus of social media and medicine have focus on the challenges social media presents in terms of privacy and maintaining professionalism.
”The existing literature on social media was really just cautioning doctors, and wasn’t focusing on the opportunities social media was presenting,” said Rachel Adilman, BSc, first author of the study. “We wanted to highlight the fact that social media actually has opportunities for us. We can share knowledge, we can collaborate, and we can harness these opportunities to further our knowledge and cooperation.”
How are oncologists using social media?
The researchers sent surveys to 680 medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists; hematologists; and oncology trainees, asking about different aspects of social media use; Trainees were defined as pre-medical students, medical students, and residents. Two hundred and seven study participants sent back the surveys (a response rate of 30%). Analysis of the responses revealed these findings:
  • Frequency of social media use: 72% of respondents use social media
  • Differences in use of social media by age of oncologist: The study used age as an indicator of respondent’s career phase, whether trainees, fellows, or early-, mid-, or late-career oncologists. Among those age 18-24 (trainees) and 25-34 (fellows), 89% and 93%, respectively, use social media. However, among those age 35-44 (early-career), the percentage goes down to 72%. And among those age 45-54 (mid-career), the percentage of oncologists who use social media dips down to 39%, a rate that is significantly lower than the 89% and 93% seen among trainees and fellows. Interestingly, late-career oncologists (age 55 and over) have a higher rate of social media use (59%) compared to mid-career oncologists.
  • What are oncologists’ goals in visiting social media sites for professional development?
Fifty five percent of respondents said their goal in visiting social media sites was to network with colleagues or professionals, 17% said their goal was to share research, and 13% said their goal was leadership development.
When separated by age group, differences emerged between users’ goals in visiting social media sites. Among the trainees and early-career cohorts, more than 53% of respondents reported a desire for professional networking, whereas among mid-career oncologists, the rate was 36%.
  • What kind of professional information are oncologists seeking on social media sites?
Fifty three percent of respondents said they are seeking journal articles, 52% said they are seeking information about upcoming conferences and courses, and 51% are looking for updates on current oncology research.
 Search features on  all social media platforms allow users to search using a # hashtag. In essence this turns twiiter into a search engine for diseases, conferences, and specialty or other term of interest.

How Do Oncologists Use Social Media, and What Information Are They Seeking? | ASCO Connection

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