The question’s important because it wasn’t long ago that doctors couldn’t say much. They could publish only in filtered places where the barrier to publication was high.
Now publication is a button (credit Clay Shirky).
You can’t control what someone publishes any more than you can control what they say. And with the immediacy and availability of modern communication tools, saying and publishing have become one in the same.
But when doctors say the wrong thing, our target becomes the institution.
The ill-advised hospital system will prohibit blogs. But such shortsighted measures are blind to the fact that the blog is only one way to share an idea – a policy like that would need to come with the prohibition all platforms that allow the transmission of ideas. Try that and see how it works.
Our goal should not to believe we can control doctors but to believe that we can help them understand today’s communication environment and the implications of public thinking. An organization’s responsibility should lie not in assuring that poor judgement never transpires but in holding its doctors reasonably accountable for poor judgment. This applies to the clinic, operating room and public media.
We can blame marketing for not controlling the doctor. But doctors should be smart enough to monitor themselves. And the day we hold the 20-year-old marketing intern responsible for a doctor’s behavior is the day we’re all in trouble.
You might find these interesting
- Mistakes Doctors Make Online – What you might expect and a few you wouldn’t.
- Should Doctors Share Their Political Views? – The medical world is very divided on this one.
- The Public Progression of Physicians – How doctors move in public, from med school to attending.
- Why Your Twitter Disclaimer Doesn’t Make Sense – …and these disclaimers can get pretty funny.
Image modified from Stories of a Country Doctor, 1891, Philadelphia: Hummen and Parmele, via Flickr.