Would You Trust a Doctor?

December 28, 2013

Twitter___RonanTKavanagh__Would_you_trust_a_doctor_who____I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t sleep.  So I checked my Twitter feed and found that my friend Ronan Kavanagh had pondered a question: Can you trust a doctor who bought followers on Twitter?  Then I really couldn’t sleep.

I don’t have an answer.  And I don’t know how to quickly sniff out a contrived audience.  But the idea that we can do this introduces a new truth for physicians:  there are many ways we can present ourselves.  This is the blessing and the curse of the physician as publisher.

How we are seen is combination of

  • Who we actually are
  • How we choose present ourselves in the public space
  • How others represent us.

imgresIn many cases manipulation of the footprint overpowers prevailing public opinion.  We can be who we want to be.  As the old cartoon in The New Yorker suggested, on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.

Going forward, the challenge for the patient is to figure out who a doctor really is and whether she represents an element in the solution to their problem.  The better question is, can you trust a doctor, independent of her audience.

Dogs on the computer via Wikipedia.


Ronan Kavanagh December 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

Sorry to have kept you awake Bryan. But glad you took the time to respond. Although I can’t prove it, I am aware of two Doctors who seem to have acquired thousands of followers over the course of a few days. Although I’m quietly ashamed that I spent the time looking, the changes in Twitter followers were of such a magnitude that I became curious. One user (who doesn’t really interact much online but of whom I have been peripherally aware) went from a few hundred followers to over 100,000 overnight. I then started watching more intently and noticed when they then dropped back to 30K, 10K over another few days. The only way I can think of to generate these sorts of changes is to buy followers. It bothers me a lot more than I thought it would – and yet, it hardly amounts to medical negligence and no-one’s health has been directly affected as a result.

Jeff livingston December 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

Maybe I need to think this through in a deeper way but my first impression is who cares. As most of us who are active in social media know the number of followers is meaningless. The quality of those following you is much more important. Buying a bunch of followers who are “fake “might boost your ego but it’s unlikely to increase your actual influence on the Internet. Creating a true following is hard work and there are no easy shortcuts.

Kathryn Bowsher December 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Excellent questions. I have been increasingly intrigued by how and why average patients build trust with individual providers and healthcare systems in general, plus how that will impact “customer” loyalty in the face of inconvenience, narrow networks and charges the average patient doesn’t understand. I saw an interesting presentation several years ago at Stanford Graduate School of Business about building high trust organizations. I was trying to find an article just now but couldn’t. David Bradford and Jennifer Aaker both have some current work that looks to be both interesting and related.

Ben Bradley December 29, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I absolutely would NOT “buy” social media followers. It’s sleazy, and almost on par with sending email spam. This article gives plenty of reasons why not. I should mention one near the end: by buying “followers” you’re almost certainly giving your credit card info to a cyber criminal.

Karen Copeland December 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

There are gullible people out there who will fall for this greedy method of finding patients. They eventually learn, hopefully before they take their last breath.
Dr. Fata is the Rochester, MI oncologist who treated patients for cancer even though they didn’t have cancer and bilked the taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in medicare fraud. I certainly do not believe he is a ‘one of’.
Trust is something you earn and just sticking MD after your name is not enough. Buying your own Internet groupies is going to work against you in the end. And then I hope you (they) pay for Your (their) arrogance and greed in the nastiest Federal penitentiary there is.

Gonzalo Mora December 30, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Our professional reputation should be based on true experience and true information.
Money can´t buy Trust (it sounds like a song by The Beattles), although it may be very cheap to buy socialmedia followers for a few bucks..

Kathy Davis @davisfnp December 31, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Thanks for posing a great question Dr. V. I have been on Twitter just over a year, and have learned so much in that time. I follow everyone who follows me, which I learned from the great Ted Coine. The only tweeps I don’t follow are trolls, spammers, inactive accounts, and those who think twitter is all about them. That probably includes those who buy twitter followers. Doctor or not, If a person/professional thinks himself so great that he must have a huge disproportion in follower/following ratio to appear a twitter rock star, that is not a person I choose to follow. It makes me feel very little.

Twitter is about reciprocation, sharing. I don’t follow Seth, Obama, Gaga, even my most favorite musician in the world. If someone doesn’t possess the class to follow back they aren’t worth my follow. Oh, and I don’t even bother anymore trying to follow the “rock stars”, which explains why we have never met. My doctor doesn’t tweet and I trust him 100%. If he was on twitter and tried to look like a rock star I would give him a verbal kick in the pants.

“Social media has infected the world with a sickening virus called vanity.”
― Kellie Elmore

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