What’s a Public Physician? Let me explain.
It used to be that all a doctor had to think about was the stuff she could see and touch. Our world was limited to our immediate surroundings. But now there’s an expanding virtual space that’s begun to shape a new role for the physician. A public role.
Our new public life is defined by everything we do outside of the exam room and beyond the UV glare of the clinic. The doctor of the 21st century has a presence online where she creates content, collaborates, writes, records, shares, learns, connects, advocates and has conversations where the world can see.
The phenomenon of the public physician implies a new role and mindset for physicians with new opportunities and responsibilities. The reality of global connectedness requires that we rethink the way we relate to the world.
The reason this concept is important is that most doctors aren’t public with the way they view themselves. We’re trained to contain and hold what we think and believe. But this silo mindset is incompatible with the way the world now works. We have to understand that the evolution of our profession in a networked world has to involve attention to how we think and share in the great, wide open.
A few defining features of the public physician
Here are a few things that define the public physician:
- Sees public presence as part of their work. The public physician is intentional in the way he connects and creates. He sees it as a new professional obligation.
- Outward facing. The mindset and perspective and perspective of the public physician is outward-facing. We see ourselves as part of a world beyond our own individual physical space.
- Recognizes that the benefits of engagement outweigh risks. Public physicians recognize the value of their visibility and engagement. They recognize the opportunity that comes with connection. That’s why they’re there.
A growing list of physician responsibilities
Here are some of the things that 21st century doctors need to look after. Not all of these apply to every doctor. But the list is intended to show that this new role is really a thing. There’s stuff for us to think about and do.
- Practice marketing/branding with new media
- Management of conflict of interest (COI) on public platforms and social networks.
- Digital professionalism/citizenship
- Balancing/managing institutional expectations of an online presence.
- Literacy with new media tools.
- Understanding ethical issues in public conversation.
- Balancing personal and professional presence online.
- Management of reputation and digital footprint.
- Understanding venues for publication and sharing of ideas.
- Personal privacy.
- Patient privacy.
Read more from The Public Physician by checking out our landing page. It’s packed with lots of practical information for managing your online presence.
Updated January 2019