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The American Congress
of obstetricians
and gynecologists
November 2012
Social Media
How to connect with patients and
spread women’s health messages
Message From the President
Social media can enhance your practice
Even if you aren’t using social
he phrase “social media”
media, your residents and staff
gets thrown around a lot
likely are, so it helps to familiarize
these days. The new linyourself with these tools. You may
go that comes with it—and the
even want to consider creating a
myriad of platforms—can be insocial media policy for your office
timidating and confusing. But
staff, so everyone knows what is
social media can be so much more
allowed—before a question arises.
than teenagers tweeting or families
The super-sonic speed in which
sharing photos of grandchildren.
technology is advancing during the
For physicians, social media can
21st century is a marvel. It seems
be an effective tool to disseminate
James T. Breeden, MD
like just a few years ago when email
critical health messages to your paPresident
became a part of everyday life, and
tients and the general public.
now we are all interacting at an incredible
In this issue of ACOG Today, you’ll find
pace on our smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
tips and ideas for those considering jumpWhether you are embracing new technoling into social media professionally, as well
ogy wholeheartedly or dipping your toe in the
as ways more experienced users can enhance
pool, please take a few moments to learn how
their efforts. You’ll read how other ob-gyns
social media can enhance your practice and
are effectively using social media and how
ACOG is using social media to reach out to its improve women’s health.
members and the public. We also address professional liability issues and suggest ways you
can protect yourself.
The executive desk
New responsibilities as you go online
responsibility to respect patient
hen I was a practicprivacy, to not offer medical
ing ob-gyn in North
advice, and to always maintain
Carolina seeing payour professionalism.
tients every day, listening to their
Whether you’re a social media
life concerns was very important.
neophyte or a guru, you should
I tried to offer reassurance and
set a few ground rules for yourself
important health messages, along
and always consider exactly what
with medical advice and treatyou’re saying before you post,
ment. Often, I wouldn’t interact
blog, tweet, or upload.
with these patients again until
As you explore how social metheir next well-woman visit.
Hal C. Lawrence III, MD
dia can enhance your practice,
But with the creation and
Executive Vice President
I also encourage you to get inproliferation of social media,
volved in ACOG’s social media efforts (see
ob-gyns now have the opportunity
page 3). Together, we can educate millions of
to continue to provide important
women about leading healthy lives.
women’s health messages to their patients
throughout the year. In fact, because of
the infinite range of social media, ob-gyns
can educate women 24/7. But with this
opportunity to educate comes an online
ACOG TODAY n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2 w w w.ACOG.ORG
Nov em b er 2012Volu m e 56, Issu e 3
Find this issue online at
Executive Vice President
Hal C. Lawrence III, MD
Director of Communications
Penelope Murphy, MS
Melanie Padgett Powers
Gina Shaw
Design and Production
touch three
Permission to Photocopy/Reprint
ACOG Communications Office
email: [email protected]
Address Changes
800-673-8444, ext 2427
or 202-863-2427
Fax: 202-479-0054
email: [email protected]
Copyright 2012 by
The American Congress of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists
PO Box 70620
Washington, DC 20024-9998
(ISSN 0400-048X)
Main phone: 800-673-8444 or
The American Congress of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists (ACOG) does not endorse or make
any representation or warranty, express or implied,
with respect to any of the products or services
described herein.
ACOG Today’s mission is to keep members apprised
of activities of both The American Congress of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists and The American
College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Follow ACOG via Social Media:
Connect with ACOG through social media
COG’s social media presence has gained a tremendous following in the past year.
Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the President’s Blog, ACOG is
reaching out to members and the public through a variety of platforms.
The number of followers continues to climb every day, reaching thousands of
ACOG members, other clinicians, government agencies, women, reporters and
bloggers, and national organizations and advocates.
Having trouble remembering ACOG’s
social media links? Just go to our website, All of the social media links are at
the top right corner of the homepage.
• Go to ACOG’s national Facebook page and
click “like.” You’ll be notified about College
documents, the latest women’s health news, and helpful resources for you and your patients.
• Access your ACOG district’s Facebook page by clicking on the “ACOG Districts” map on the
national page. “Like” your district page to get district-specific posts and regional news.
• If your office has a professional Facebook page, click “share” on any ACOG post to share that
resource or health message with your patients.
• You don’t need a Twitter account to visit
ACOG’s Twitter page. But if you have a
Twitter account, “follow” ACOG to receive
our daily tweets in your feed.
• Join ACOG for our regular Twitter chats, in which ACOG Fellows answer the public’s
questions and provide resources on a specific women’s health topic. Previous topics
have included STDs, HPV vaccination, nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and adolescent health. Follow hashtag
#acogchat. (We announce the topic, day,
and time of chats on Facebook and Twitter.)
• Read weekly blog posts from ACOG’s president on
a variety of topics, such as reproductive rights, pregnancy issues, gynecologic concerns, healthy living,
and more.
• Subscribe to the blog to receive an email when a new
blog post is up. You’ll see the “sign up” button on the
right side of the blog homepage.
• Comment on blog posts to add to the conversation.
• Use the provided icons at the end of each blog post to
share the post on your own social media sites.
• Become an ACOG guest blogger by submitting a
400-word draft blog post on a women’s health topic
for consideration to [email protected]
• Watch more than 60 videos of Fellows and
Junior Fellows delivering women’s health
messages or presenting their latest research.
• See a video you like? Embed it on your
Facebook page, website, or blog post by
clicking “share” and copying and pasting the
embed code onto your site. Or, simply share
the link.
w w w.ACOG.ORG n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
When patients ask about
How to
started in social media
ou’ve decided it’s time to start a professional Facebook
page, create a Twitter account, or start blogging about
women’s health issues. But before you dive in to social
media, do your homework. Ask yourself these key questions, then
establish some guidelines and goals, and learn the strategy and
etiquette of the different platforms.
What is my goal?
(To educate patients and/or the public at large, advocate
for women’s health issues, increase my visibility, etc.?)
Who am I trying to reach?
(Current patients, all women, colleagues?)
How much time can I commit to this?
Does my practice or hospital have a social media
policy I must abide by?
(Be sure to ask; don’t just assume there is no policy.)
Each social media platform is unique.
Get to know how each one works and discover what
might be most useful to you and your patients.
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You may already have your own Facebook
personal page featuring photos of your
kids and your trip to the Grand Canyon.
However, you should create a new, separate page for yourself to use professionally.
Start here—Facebook’s “Create a Page”
Unlike Twitter, a Facebook page allows you to post as
much copy as you want, but it’s best to limit posts to one
to two sentences. Posts
are more helpful and
receive more visibility
if they link to another
website, whether it’s
an important news article, journal study,
or useful patient
Twitter can be intimidating until you
know the lingo (see page 10). First, create a Twitter “handle” or username
using some variation of your name.
Make it understandable, but as short
as possible, such as @MyNameMD or
@ObGynofMyTown. Type in a short bio and upload a
professional photo. You’re ready to tweet.
Remember, everything is public and can’t be taken
back once it’s sent. Brevity is essential: You have only
140 characters per tweet, including spaces between
words. You may want to stick with only 120 characters,
making it easier for others to add comments and retweet.
Fertility specialist Serena H. Chen, MD, FACOG, recently
tweeted, “Is #aspirin ok when you are trying to conceive
or during #pregnancy?” She then linked to one of her
blog posts. To make sure her tweet will show up in
Twitter searches, she put a “hashtag” (the symbol #) in
front of certain keywords: #aspirin, #pregnancy.
You can tweet comments and links to interesting
news articles or new research you think is important.
Something intriguing in the latest Green Journal
(@greenjrnl)? Tweet about it.
Find other doctors to follow on Twitterdoctors.
net; often, when you “follow” people’s tweets, they will
follow you back. Many important health care organizations are on Twitter, including ACOG, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (with multiple Twitter
accounts), the World Health Organization, and almost
every major US hospital. The New York Times, The
Wall Street Journal, and NPR all have health-related
Twitter feeds. Google the organization’s name and “on
Twitter” to find it.
You can send tweets directly from the Twitter website,, but many people prefer to install an
app directly on their phone or tablet to make tweeting
more convenient. Dr. Chen (@DrSerenaHChen) and
San Francisco Bay area Fellow Jennifer Gunter, MD
(@DrJenGunter), both use free online tools, such as
HootSuite or TweetDeck, that allow you to schedule
tweets ahead of time.
“I spend just a few minutes a day sorting through
online news and Twitter feeds I follow and picking
out what’s interesting,” Dr. Chen said. “Then, instead
of putting it all out there at once, I set it to post at intervals throughout the day so it’s easier for people to
digest. I can get information out to my patients in just
a couple of seconds. I have been very impressed by the
quality of these little bytes of information for living a
healthy life.”
Blogging may seem more intimidating than just tweeting or posting to Facebook, but it
shouldn’t be. There are several free blog hosting services available; two of the most popular are WordPress and Blogger. Maryland Fellow Mark S. Seigel, MD, uses WordPress for
his, while Fellow Suzanne R. Trupin, MD, of Champaign, IL, tried both services when she
launched her blog, GynoGab ( “At first I double-posted on both
sites,” Dr. Trupin said, “but I found that I was primarily getting comments on the Blogger
site, and not on WordPress, so I took WordPress down.”
Dr. Trupin keeps an “idea book”—a Word file with drafts of blog posts and notes about
what might make an interesting subject for a post. “If I have a new Green Journal, say, I’ll
make a few notes on my laptop,” she said. “And then I’ll take an hour or an hour and a half
on Saturday and pull something from my idea book. My goal is to have posts every day,
although I don’t always make it.”
If you have a blog, you can use Facebook or Twitter to generate more
interest in what you have to say. Dr. Trupin (@GynoGab) has amassed a
list of more than 1,700 Twitter followers, so when she posts a new blog
topic, she’ll immediately tweet about it. “I get so many more hits that way,”
For 15 more tips, see page 12 of the
she said.
online version of this issue:
w w w.ACOG.ORG n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
12 social media
DOs and DON’Ts
Some of the most important rules for physicians using social media include:
Don’t discuss patients online, even in
general terms.
Don’t give medical advice.
Don’t post photos of patients or babies.
Don’t post anything you don’t want the entire world to read. Everything you do and
say online is public.
Don’t “friend” your patients on Facebook. If you have a personal Facebook
page, consider creating a separate professional one.
Don’t spend too much time directly promoting your practice. Social media is about
having a conversation, so limit self-serving
practice promotions such as “We have 4-D
fetal ultrasound at our downtown location!”
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Always maintain your professionalism.
Be careful with humor and political
Speak in lay terms patients and consumers
will understand.
Ask your employer and/or hospital if it has
social media guidelines you must follow.
Consider creating a social media policy for
your practice.
Ask your professional liability carrier if it
has social media coverage or guidelines.
Know how to protect yourself from liability pitfalls
he experience of a doctor in Rhode
Island has become a cautionary tale
for physicians using social media.
After she discussed a trauma case on her
Facebook page, the hospital revoked her
privileges and the state medical board reprimanded her, according to the Boston Globe.
“Discussing a patient, even in general terms, in social media is like talking
about a case in a hospital elevator, but
with millions listening,” said Albert L.
Strunk, JD, MD, ACOG deputy executive
vice president and vice president of fellowship activities. “Just by knowing small
details like the date or the doctor’s or
hospital’s name, it’s not too difficult to
discover who the patient could be.”
Social media
can be an effective
tool to disseminate
important health
messages, reach out
to patients, and advocate for women’s
health issues. But
with this new territory comes new rules
and risks. By educating yourself about
potential liability pitfalls and being alert
to possible privacy
violations, you can
have a successful and
rewarding social media presence.
One of the challenges is that once
you become comfortable with social media, its casual environment can feel more
intimate than it is. We let down our
guards, and this is when slip-ups can occur, said Stella M. Dantas, MD, chair
of ACOG’s Committee on Professional
“One high risk for violating HIPAA is a
situation in which you’re tired, you come
home, maybe you’ve had a difficult delivery, and you post something on Facebook
to your friends because you’re processing
it,” Dr. Dantas said. “But unfortunately,
there’s enough info about the patient that
she could potentially be identified.”
In a survey of state medical boards, the
majority had received reports of online
professionalism violations. These included
inappropriate patient communications;
inappropriate medical practice, such as
prescribing without an established clinical relationship; and misrepresentation
of credentials. In response, 71% of boards
held disciplinary proceedings, and 40% issued informal warnings, according to the
survey in the March 21, 2012, issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Whenever you are considering posting anything that has to do with work or
medicine, even on your personal social
media accounts, always remember your
position as a physician. “You have a professional image to maintain, so always
consider the impact of what you’re posting,” Dr. Strunk said.
Do your homework
To help ward off any missteps, don’t
dive into social media without first researching how various platforms work and
developing a plan. (See page 4 to learn
how to get started.)
“Make sure you understand your privacy
settings; they vary among platforms,” Dr.
Dantas said. “If you’re new to social media,
have someone walk you through how to set
up your privacy settings. It’s not that easy
to navigate, and privacy policies change often.” And keep in mind that anything you
post online is potentially searchable and is
never truly deleted. “Your digital footprint
is always there,” Dr. Dantas said.
According to a recent survey by QuantiaMD, 67% of physicians use social media
professionally, an ever-growing group
that can communicate directly to patients
about preventive screenings, signs and
symptoms of illnesses, and healthy lifestyle
choices. Establishing your own social media plan and adhering to a few basic rules
can keep you safe and secure as you educate your patients.
Medical students need to be professional online
Sixty percent of medical schools in 2009 reported incidents of students posting unprofessional content online, including discriminatory language, profanity, depiction
of intoxication, sexually suggestive material, and violations of patient confidentiality.
Patient privacy violations occurred primarily on blogs, according to the survey in the
September 23/30, 2009, issue of JAMA.
“Medical students may not be aware of how online posting can reflect negatively on
medical professionalism or jeopardize their careers,” the study stated. “For example, at
one institution, teaching about how to elect privacy settings on Facebook resulted in
an 80% decrease in publicly accessible accounts.”
w w w.ACOG.ORG n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
The doctor will
tweet you now
ACOG Fellows make their
mark in social media
to encourage users to “follow” him. In doing so, he
joined a growing population of ob-gyns—and doctors in
general—who are promoting their practices, educating
their patients, and reaching out to a broader community through social media.
According to a survey of 4,000 physicians conducted
by QuantiaMD in 2011, 67% of physicians use social media
professionally, and 87% use it personally. Doctors are using
online physician communities, like QuantiaMD and Sermo, the
most, at 28%, allowing them to connect exclusively with other physicians and keep up on the latest research and recommendations
in their specialty. About 15% use Facebook professionally—though
61% are using Facebook personally. Also used professionally by
physicians: 8%, blogs; 8%, YouTube; and 3%, Twitter. Another 17%
use LinkedIn, the professional networking site.
That leaves 33% of physicians who don’t use social media professionally at all.
hree years ago, Maryland Fellow Mark S. Seigel, MD, had
the kind of online presence many physicians still have: a
static website. It described the practice’s services, listed
office locations and business hours, and highlighted Dr. Seigel’s
biography and awards. He’d designed it himself and spent minimal time keeping it updated.
Then, at the 2010 ACOG Annual Clinical Meeting, Dr.
Seigel—who also has a degree in computer science—was a presenter for a session on health care information technology. The
course focused on electronic health records, but it soon became
clear that the growing role of social media in medical practice
needed to be incorporated.
To prepare for the revised course, Dr. Seigel decided to
jump-start his own social media presence. He launched a blog
and made it the main page of his website, He
also set up a Facebook Page, opened a Twitter account,
@RockvilleObGyn, and placed social media icons on his website
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Why social media?
Why should doctors use social media? What can it do for you?
And how can you make the most of it without falling prey to hazards like privacy violations?
Establishing a social media presence is not going to suddenly
cause hundreds of patients to beat down your door, according to
ob-gyns like Dr. Seigel, but it can be a very effective way to communicate with and educate current patients.
“My approach is to write blog posts about things I’ve just discussed in the office,” Dr. Seigel said. “For example, I recently
wrote about Essure, the new method of permanent birth control. I
included an image of the inside of the uterus, where the tubal ostium is and where the implant is inserted. It’s something a patient
can look over at her leisure and get a better idea of something we
might have discussed briefly during a visit.”
Other topics Dr. Seigel has blogged about include the warning
signs of preeclampsia, cervical cancer and HPV, and new prenatal
genetic tests. He often uses ACOG materials as sources for
his posts.
“I used to give out pamphlets and information sheets, but with
those, you print out 50 and they sit on a shelf and they don’t change,”
he said. “With a blog, you can write about a new topic in 20 minutes,
publish it, and it’s there for your patients to read
at any time.”
Dr. Seigel waited until his blog was established to launch his professional Facebook
page and Twitter account to help push traffic
to his blog. When he posts a new blog entry,
he’ll announce it on Facebook and Twitter.
“They reinforce each other,” he said.
Dr. Seigel’s blog is his alone, but Fellow
Serena H. Chen, MD, blogs on a practicewide website,, hosted by the
Institute for Reproductive Medicine at St.
Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ,
where she is director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinlogy.
Dr. Chen and her colleagues inherited the web presence from
the previous division director, Fellow David B. Sable, MD, who
had launched a message board for patients in the 1990s, a board
that remains active. All doctors in the practice respond to questions on the message board, but Dr. Chen is the most frequent
blogger. She’s blogged on topics such as antidepressants and
pregnancy; alcohol and IVF; fertility; and breast cancer. She
also guest blogs on other websites, such as FertilityAuthority.
com, and tweets at @DrSerenaHChen.
“While I hope it brings more patients in the door, I think our
social media presence is primarily an educational tool for our
patients. They get information from a lot of different sources
these days, and they need to hear their doctor’s voice not just
in the office, but in other forums as well,” Dr. Chen said. “Every
time we answer a question or create a blog post about something
like bleeding during pregnancy, we try to include a bit of public
health education.”
Michigan Fellow Suzanne Hall, MD, launched her blog,, in February 2012 for many of the same reasons. “I first wanted to be able to provide a resource for our
practice’s patients. Often, I think patients leave their appointments without a full understanding of what we’re trying to
discuss with them,” she said. “Then I started seeing that it could
also be an opportunity for any reader who was interested in
women’s health issues.”
Dr. Hall said she spends about six hours a week managing her
professional Facebook page (
and Twitter account (@drsuzyyhall), marketing and updating the
blog, and collaborating with others interested in social media in
health care. Recent blog posts include a briefing on what a routine annual gynecological exam should include and a link to a
video of uterine fibroids.
When the whole world can read what you’re writing, you
have to be particularly judicious about what you say. There are
important caveats about privacy and discretion for anyone who
participates in social media, but the bar of caution is set even
higher for physicians.
A few things to keep in mind:
1. Don’t give medical advice online. Someone may contact you with medical questions via your
Facebook account, Twitter feed, or blog. “If
they’re not your patient and they’re not sitting in front of you, you can’t give medical
advice,” Dr. Chen warned.
Many doctors’ blogs and other social media sites contain disclaimers stating that their
posts are for educational purposes only. “I did
a lot of research and reading based on information from health care attorneys who are
experts in social media and HIPAA and tried
to follow their guidelines,” Dr. Hall said. She
cites health care lawyer David Harlow and
his HealthBlawg site as one favorite source.
“Whenever I get personal medical questions,
I’ll redirect the person and ask them to call the office directly.”
2. Don’t post or tweet about anything to do with your day at
the office, suggested Fellow Jennifer Gunter, MD (drjengunter., an ob-gyn and pain medicine physician in the
San Francisco Bay area. “I might say that I worked out at lunch,
but I would never post or tweet that I was running late or even
that a patient asked me xyz question today,” she said. “Even an
innocent comment can be misinterpreted. Say you post that you
just did a difficult hysterectomy; what if that patient later has a
complication and sues, and her lawyer pulls your Twitter feed
and suggests that the surgery was over your head?” (Learn more
about liability risk on page 7.)
3. Never post or tweet anything about a patient. In 2011,
a physician in Rhode Island had her hospital privileges revoked
and was reprimanded by the state medical board after she posted
comments to her Facebook page that included information about
a trauma patient. She didn’t identify the person by name, but
there was enough detail that officials said people in the community would be able to figure out who the patient was.
“If I post that I saw an interesting case involving pelvic pain
today, and I saw 15 patients that day, a patient reading my blog
or Facebook page knows there’s a 1 in 15 chance I’m talking
about her,” Dr. Gunter said. “That’s not fair even if it is sanitized
for HIPAA. Instead, if I see an interesting case, I might turn an
idea related to that condition into a blog post later, but I will never relate it to a specific patient.”
If you keep these few caveats in mind, social media can be a
great forum for you to communicate with your patients, their
community, and the world at-large.
“Just write about things you’re already interested in, things
you wish your patients knew, and keep it up-to-date,” Dr. Seigel
said. “Take 20 minutes a couple of times a week to write an article or two and put up Facebook posts or tweets about it. Anyone
can do it, and it doesn’t have to take a ton of time.”
“With a blog, you can
write about a new
topic in 20 minutes,
publish it, and it’s there
for your patients to
read at any time.”
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Social media definitions
Blog: a website of regularly updated
journal-type entries, often focusing on
a specific theme, displayed in reverse
chronological order. A blog is often, but
not always, maintained and written by
one person. “Blog” was shortened from
“web log.”
Facebook: the largest social network
in the world, used for both personal and
professional use. Ob-gyns can set up a public, professional page and post “status” updates
linking to health resources, women’s health
recommendations, or reputable news articles or
journal studies. Ask your patients to “like” your
office page and they will receive your updates on
their Facebook homepage.
Flickr: a photo management and sharing website.
Hashtag: a word preceded by the # symbol on Twitter that
marks keywords in a tweet. Search hashtags, such as #HPV, in
the Twitter search bar to find tweets on that topic.
LinkedIn: a professional social networking site primarily used
for business networking.
Microblog: a blog-type site that allows users to post mini up-
Tweet/tweeting: A “tweet” is the 140-character message sent
out via Twitter. “Tweeting” is the act of using Twitter.
Twitter: a microblogging site that allows users to send short,
real-time 140-character updates, known as “tweets,” to the general
public. People “follow” you to receive your tweets in their Twitter
feed; you can “follow” others that you want to see tweets from.
Twitter chat or tweet chat: a Q&A on Twitter hosted by
a person or a group that allows anyone to follow it in live time,
asking questions and discussing issues on a particular topic. You
find a chat by searching Twitter for a designated hashtag—such
as #acogchat—at a predetermined day and time.
Twitter handle: your username on Twitter, shown with an @
symbol, eg, @acognews.
YouTube: a site used to share original (not copyrighted) videos.
Widget: a small, portable application that you can place on
your website or blog to display specific content. For example,
you can put a free BMI calculator from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention on your website, instead of simply linking to it.
Wiki: any collaborative website that allows users to edit the
content. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia site, is the best known.
dates. Twitter is the most popular microblog.
Post: used both as a verb and noun referring to updates you put
on Facebook, as in “I posted a new post today.”
Resources to
get you started
“Professionalism in the Use of Social
Media,” American Medical Association
“Model Policy Guidelines for the
Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social
Networking in Medical Practice,” Federation
of State Medical Boards:
ACOG TODAY n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
Read the online version of this
issue of ACOG Today to click
directly on all the links provided:
“The Health Communicator’s Social
Media Toolkit,” Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC): cdc.
How to create YouTube videos for patient
“CDC’s Guide to Writing for Social Media”:
How to set up a Facebook account: Visit and click “help” in the bottom
right corner.
Better Health, a network of professional
health care bloggers:
How to set up a Twitter account:
100990-how-to-sign-up-on-twitter and tells
you how many people your tweet reached
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How to use apps in your
ob-gyn practice
Apps for ob-gyns
ithin the last year, the entire medical staff at
the Institute for Reproductive Medicine at
St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston,
NJ, has converted to using tablets and smartphones.
“We’re doing sonograms every day of the week and
running from room to room with our patients, so we use
iPads as a kind of portable chart,” said Fellow Serena H.
Chen, MD. “You can tap on the tablet and the patient’s
chart is right there—all her drugs, her medications, and
her most recent sonogram. Even if you’re just covering,
you can pull up her information really quickly.”
Dr. Chen and her colleagues aren’t alone. Physician
use of tablets and related mobile devices doubled between 2011 and 2012, according to a survey released in
May by Manhattan Research, a global pharmaceutical
and health care market research firm. The survey found
that 62% of doctors are now using tablets, compared
with 35% in 2011. About half of those tablets are used
at the point of care.
Fellow Tamara Helfer, MD, who practices at the
Christie Clinic in Champaign, IL, uses a tablet that’s
more like a laptop computer. “I love it,” she said. “Going from room to room, I have templates and can do all
of my work in the room and right outside, so all of my
charting and related work can be done before I leave
the office.” Her practice is now pilot-testing a new Mac-based charting system that
would allow physicians to switch to iPads.
In addition to accessing patient charts and electronic medical records, ob-gyns
and other physicians are using tablet- and smartphone-based apps to keep information at their fingertips and recommending useful health care apps to their patients.
• A
COG apps: ACOG is working on several
different types of apps to keep members informed about recommendations and to educate their patients. Stay tuned for details.
• ICD-9 coding apps: ICD9 Codes by
SvmSoft and Stat ICD-9 Lite are two of
several coding apps available. “There are
millions of codes out there and this makes
it much easier to bring them up,” Tamara
Helfer, MD, said.
• M ediMath: an aggregator of 144 of the
most important medical calculators and
scoring tools, including OB calculators, IV
dosages, and body mass calculators.
• T he Merck Manual-Professional
Edition: a digital version of Merck’s reference text. The manual, and other premium medical resources, are also available aggregated within SkyScape.
• E pocrates: a mobile drug, diagnostic,
and disease information utility.
• W ebMD’s Medscape: a popular source
of professionally focused medical news
and journal articles.
• Bishop’s Score Calculator and
Perfect OB Wheel.
• Mavro’s Medical Spanish.
• C atch: a note-taking app. “If I find an article I really like, I can cut and paste what
I need and then make my own notes,” Dr.
Helfer said.
• Dragon Dictation: a voice-recognition
app that allows you to speak and instantly
see your texts and emails.
Apps for patients
• i Contraction: Instead of writing down when a contraction
starts and ends, a woman in labor can just tap the app when a
contraction begins and again when it ends. There’s a log that
she can email or bring to your office.
• iPeriod: a period tracker.
• iPill and myPill: birth control reminder apps.
• dLife and Glucose Buddy: help people with diabetes track
their blood sugar and other key measures.
• iTriage: a symptom checker that guides patients through their symptoms and helps them find the right health care provider nearby.
• Healthy weight apps: Many ob-gyns told ACOG Today that
they frequently recommend apps to help patients manage their
weight—a critical element of their practice. “I’m always giving information to my patients about eating right and staying at a healthy
weight,” Tamara Helfer, MD, said. She recommends Livestrong’s
healthy lifestyle apps to her patients, especially the mobile calorie
counter. Jennifer Gunter, MD, likes the food and exercise journal app Lose It!, using the app herself to lose 50 pounds recently.
Fertility specialist Serena H. Chen, MD, endorses Lose It! as well:
“Obesity is a key cause of infertility, and having a super-easy way to
write down everything that goes into your mouth each day is eyeopening.” Studies have shown that food journals can be effective
for weight loss, but which are patients more likely to carry everywhere they go: a journal or their smartphone?
w w w.ACOG.ORG n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
15 tips to get the most out of social media
Have you been trying out social media for a while and want to step up your game? Try these tips.
1.Recognize that each social media platform is different. Learn
the lingo, and phrase posts differently for each vehicle.
2.Be thoughtful and concise. This increases your chance for
retweets and Facebook shares, which grows your audience.
3.Write 1–2 short sentences to introduce a Facebook link. Add
a local angle, offer your analysis, or provide guidelines or a
health message.
4.When you add a link to a Facebook post, for easier reading
clean up the headline and text that is automatically embedded:
Click on the headline to retype it, making it shorter or replacing
a long website address with a pithy headline. Click on the embedded copy to shorten it to 2–3 lines or it will be automatically
cut off. Better yet, copy and paste a more relevant sentence
from the article you’re linking to.
5.Don’t allow your Facebook or YouTube posts and uploads to
be automatically tweeted or posted to other platforms. You
want your tweets and posts to sound human, not automated.
6.Hyperlink phrases in your blog to relevant pages on other
7.Allow comments to your blog posts to encourage conversation.
Most blog platforms allow you to approve comments first, if
you prefer.
8.Add to your blog an ongoing list of links to other blogs you
like. Contact those bloggers and ask them to add your blog to
their list.
9.Embed widgets, photos, and YouTube videos to
your website or Facebook page. But be aware of
copyright and privacy laws. (Free CDC widgets:
10.Interact with others on Twitter to gain new followers and get
more views of your tweets. Follow, retweet, and reply to tweets
from ACOG, your hospital, other physicians, and national
organizations. Go to ACOG’s Twitter page to see our list of
followers and which organizations, other ob-gyns, and government agencies you may want to follow.
11.Recognize that you don’t have to respond to every tweet
directed at you or mentioning you. Some people with specific
agendas “heckle” others in tweets or try to bait people into an
argument. Your tweets are always public, and not responding may sometimes be the most responsible and professional
12.Embed your Twitter feed onto your practice website and/
or blog, so website visitors can see your most recent tweets
in real time.
13.Limit your tweets to 120 characters, instead of the 140
allowed, to make it easier for others to retweet your
14. Use shortened URLs, or website links, on Twitter to save
space. Well-known URL shorteners:,, and
15.Use websites like HootSuite, CoTweet, or TweetDeck
to manage all your social media channels in one place.
These sites allow you to schedule posts and tweets
ahead of time and keep track of who is following you
and interacting with your posts.
ACOG TODAY n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
w w w.ACOG.ORG
Mervan Oswald Anderson, MD
Virginia Beach, VA
William T. Griffin, MD
Columbia, MO
Hilton A. Salhanick, MD
Brookline, MA
Mark G. Coley, MD
Mobile, AL
Elwyn Mancel Grimes, MD
Fort Worth, TX
Sidney L. Sellers, MD
Dalton, GA
Howard Gass, MD
Franksville, WI
M. Wayne Heine, MD
Tucson, AZ
Alfred I. Sherman, MD
Farmington Hills, MI
w w w.ACOG.ORG n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 2
Permit No. 251
The American Congress of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists
PO Box 70620
Washington, DC 20024-9998
Statistics courtesy of Twitter,, Pew Research Center, and QuantiaMD.
of the
US population
is on Facebook
of Twitter users are
of adult Internet users
in the US look for
health info online
of US adults
have cell phones
with apps on
of physicians
use social media
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