Author: Allison Myers

New study: Physicians should use social media carefully

A study out today from two Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center physicians, Arash Mostaghimi, MD, MPA and Bradley H. Crotty, MD provides some recommendations on how physicians can use social media sites and still maintain a necessary level of professionalism.

According to a summary on the website MedicalNewsToday, Mostaghimi and Crotty’s article in today’s Annals of Internal Medicine discusses the challenge of using sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate professionally with patients and colleagues, and also personally with friends and family. The balance of social media is the need to protect the confidential nature of communications between patients and providers, while at the same time leveraging the strength of the tool to convey general messages to an audience. Specifically, from MedicalNewsToday:

Mostaghimi and Crotty recommend that institutions develop standards and educational materials to guide physicians and that physicians be both knowledgeable about social media and protective of their online presence. They advise physicians to regularly perform “electronic self-audits” of their online identity and create “dual citizenship” with a distinct professional profile intended to come up early on a search engine query.

The authors go on to discourage the use of sites like Facebook and Twitter for direct communication with patients since the information is controlled by the social media companies. These types of sites, they say, should be reserved for general announcements like flu vaccination.

The bottom line on this: The use of social media can be of enormous benefit. And, use caution. Are there other recommendations you would make?


From Junkie to Yogi: A Health Communication Narrative

Narrative communications such as story telling, personal testimonials and entertainment education have enormous potential for health promotion. This NYTimes story about Jeanne Heaton, a Bikram yoga teacher from New York City, is particularly powerful.

Jeanne is a recovering heroin addict who has changed her life, in her words, “a posture at a time”.  Her journey went from rock bottom at the Chelsea Hotel to a Bikram Yoga Studio where she found the courage to look at her body, deeply, and learned to embrace herself in the mirror. Today, her goal as a yoga teacher is to help people face their own painful struggles, offering her own life as an example of a ‘way out’.

Check out Jeanne’s story below and give us your thoughts on who and how Jeanne’s story might help others.

Introducing for Health

At Upstream, we like to feature new media tools and sources of inspiration, likeOpenIDEOSmokeFreeMovies, and Google for Non Profits.

Let us introduce you to a new source of health information, brought to you as a community service from RedHat, an open source software company.  The Health Channel on is a brand-new home for health-minded folks who believe in ‘the open source way’: transparency, information-sharing, community building, and collaboration.

At, contributing authors from around the world share their ideas and perspectives on how ‘the open source way’ is being applied to improve health around the world.

For example (in this story) writer Ruth Suehle describes how the United States Department of Health and Human Services is leading the cause toward better information sharing. The Direct Project seeks to improve the process of health information sharing, making it faster, less expensive and more secure, and the Blue Button project allows patients to access and share their own medical records.  Imagine what these tools could do for patient-provider communication!

Consider another story (also by Ruth Suehle) of community building for health via web-based social networks such  According to Suehle,

“PatientsLikeMe believes in full openness. If you agree to share all of your information, you get the benefit of seeing those footprints. You can find out exactly what other people like you have been through, and in aggregate, the trends with symptoms and drugs other people like you have experienced. The average study in the health system would involve a small slice of data over a small slice of time over a specific question. PatientsLikeMe broadens every aspect of that and creates greater power for patients with more access through sharing information openly.”

The Opensource Health channel is a place to reconsider how we promote health, in light of new technologies, globalization, and a growing sense of patient empowerment.  All stories are open for comments, discussion and debate.  Authorship is open, too, so if you’ve got something to contribute, you can get in touch.



Smoke Free Movies? Yes, Please!

Are you a movie buff?  New movies hit the theatres and the DVD rental box every week: movies for kids, action movies, romance, drama.  Kids and adults flock to theatres or to RedBox, popcorn in hand and watch with rapt attention, taking in fantastical or real-life-impersonating images of heros and heroines doing wildly exotic (or drudgingly normal) things.  The results of our movie watching vary: sometimes we are simply entertained, sometimes we daydream about what could have been, sometimes our spirits are ignited towards a better future, or sometimes our peers model and we learn destructive behaviors, like how to smoke cigarettes, drink too much, or roll a joint.

Wait, did I say that?

Did you know, of the top 10 movies out on film last week (March 21, 2011), 50% of them feature smoking? And that of the top DVD rentals for last week, 60% of them feature smoking?

All this movie-trailer dramatic intro language exists here to say

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Personalized, web-based My Colon Cancer Coach features UNC GI expert

My Colon Cancer Coach is a new, interactive patient education website presented by partners Fight Colon Cancer and Genomic Health, and featuring Dr. Richard M. Goldberg, Distinguished Professor of Gastrointestinal Cancer Research and Associate Director for Clinical Research at the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Throughout the site, UNC’s Dr. Goldberg, who has been involved with Fight Colon Cancer as a volunteer and advisor for many years, serves as a video guide.  Dr. Goldberg told us by email,

“Their advocacy work on behalf of colon cancer patients is important because of the help they provide to individuals and the role they play in making our elected officials aware of the needs of those people with the disease. My Colon Cancer Coach is a way to help patients who are newly diagnosed understand the disease and their options to manage it. As an educator and a specialist in managing colon cancer I wanted to support this effort.”

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Thoughtless, thoughtful or both: My OB Said What?!?!

Photo credit to My OB Said What?!? Blog

One of my friends from high school is expecting her first baby – any day.  And, apparently, she’s got some interesting stories to tell about her visits with her to-remain-unnamed obstetrician in Connecticut.

Today, she posted this link on Facebook:

I curiously clicked the link.  At first, I figured the site would be akin to texts from last night or the FAIL blog – purely for enjoyment or giggles, not for any more tangible benefit.

Turns out I could be wrong.  Consider these points:

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Tobacco warning labels get update in Canada

One of 16 new proposed health warning messages on a cigarette package. Credit: Health Canada, 2011.

Tobacco warning labels around the world vary from gory to containing eyebrow-raising sexual innuendo.

In a move described in Medical News Today as “demonstrating world leadership” by Rob Cunningham, Senior Policy Analyst at the Canadian Cancer Society, the tobacco warnings and messages on cigarette packs in Canada may be getting an update.

Since 2000, health warning messages, health information messages, and information about the toxic emissions of cigarettes have been displayed on cigarette packages in Canada as part of its Tobacco Act.  This week, officials at Health Canada are proposing updated legislation, titled Tobacco Products Labeling Regulations (Cigarettes and Little Cigars) (TPLR-CLC) that will update and expand the requirements.

What’s new?

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Commentary: How does globalization shape health communication?

photo © alles_schlumpf, flickr

Have you ever reflected on how the field of interdisciplinary health communication is shaped by globalization?  Globalization comes with baggage: sometimes, it is perceived as ‘progress.’ Other times, as a oppressive force that keeps the rich, rich and the poor, poor.

Still I reflect on how the process, itself, shapes our research and practice.

Consider this 2003 definition of globalization from the International Labor Office:

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