Truly, though, it’s an honor. My dermatology peers voted for me, and I am humbled.
The paradox of Health 2.0 is that along with unlimited access to medical information comes unlimited exposure to medical misinformation.
Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are replete with marketers in sheep’s clothing, pseudo-doctors (I hate to be a stickler, but a doctor should be a doctor and not just be a cool moniker like Queen is to Latifa), and friends who happen to be dumb.
When you combine these characters, finding truth is difficult in a sea of social media untruths. In this way, Twitter is bad for your health. Using social media sites to help with your medical problem means you’re getting lots of medical misinformation.
A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control proved this point. The authors looked at tweets and retweets about using antibiotics to treat a cold. They discovered that inaccurate or misinformed tweets were rampant and exposed 850,000 or more people to bad advice or wrong information about antibiotics.
How do you know that the information you’re getting is accurate? Can you trust your friends? Social media and Health 2.0 are here to stay and have the potential to benefit patients and physicians. So how should you navigate to avoid bad advice?
Photo: Caricaturas (from flickr) and Peter Steiner, The New Yorker (from wikipedia).
I love my iPhone. (No, that’s not me in the photo.)
My iPhone is teeming with apps that help me get through my day (like Doodle Jump for instance). An emerging iPhone trend is the development of apps that diagnose and treat diseases. For example, there is the stethoscope app to help diagnose heart murmurs. In dermatology, there is an app designed to treat acne.
We know that specific wavelengths of light can have medicinal effects such as killing bacteria (red light) and reducing inflammation (blue light). This app produces light at those wavelengths to treat acne. The claim is that by holding the iPhone to your face, the light produced from the app will treat your acne.
Although it scores a 10 on 10 in the coolness factor, it scores a 0 on 10 for proof of efficacy. The studies that looked at treating acne with light used much more intense light than an iPhone uses. The studies with more powerful light exposed faces for 60 minutes every week, which is about 8 minutes on each side every day. Even then, light treatments for acne have not been shown to be consistently better than standard acne treatments such as antibiotics and tretinoin.
So does the acne app work? Well, there are no studies to tell us. Given that the light intensity is low and that most people would not do the treatment — try holding your phone for 2-5 minutes on each side of your face every day for months — I doubt it works.
Acne is common and naturally gets better and worse at times no matter what you do. It is unfortunate that products like this are sold that do not have any proof that they work. There will be people who buy this app and believe that it helped them, (“My acne was clear in just THREE DAYS!”) but the two bucks is better spent on Doodle Jump.
Photo: Aye Shamus (flickr)
Is the milk you drink rBST-free? Is your physician board certified?
Many people take the time to buy hormone free milk, but they don’t make an effort to choose a physician who is board certified. That’s a shame.
Asking a friend or family member might be a good way to choose a hairdresser, but it is not a good way to choose a physician. Medicine is difficult. The same way that you want the pilot of your next flight to be maintaining his or her skills and knowledge of flying, you also want your physician to maintain his or her skills in medicine. The truth is, you are much more likely to die from your doctor’s mistake than from a pilot’s mistake.
Being board certified is no guarantee that your physician is good (or nice!), but it does assure you that your physician is committed to continuing education and is learning advances in medicine. It also assures you that your physician has completed the necessary training and passed a certification exam for the field of medicine he or she is practicing. Having a license means only that they completed the minimal requirement to practice medicine. Maintaining active board certification means that your physician has undergone yearly continuing education and has passed a re-certification exam every few years.
Certainly there is more to being a good physician than completing residency and passing written and oral examinations. But studies show that high exam scores do correlate with practicing better medicine.
There are 24 board specialties. You can check to see if your physician is board certified by going to the American Board of Medical Specialties site at ABMS.org, registering, and putting in your physician’s name. It is a free and confidential service. You can have a nice glass of rBST-free milk in the meantime.
Photo: Ingrid Taylar (flickr)