Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Would Twitter improve patient compliance?

Would a social networking notification remind you to wear sunscreen?

That was the thought I pondered today when a patient told me he would comply with a cancer prevention regimen if someone would just remind him.

Last year my partner Alan Menter and I co-authored an article on patient compliance or "adherence" as the word in the trade is called. To be frank, the more complicated the regimen of treatment, the poorer the compliance from the patient.

And what a complicated world we live in. I mean, all I ask is for patients to wear sunscreen. I can only imagine the challenge of following a low cholesterol, low fat, low carb, low taste diet.

So enter Twitter.

Just how successful would a daily reminder from your doctor about the benefits of compliance have on your choices? It would go something like this: (note: I didn't verify that this is less than 140 characters...but you get the point) "Eating granola today can lower your cholesterol (@docdano)."

Would these 140 characters get your LDL below 140?

There is a reason that "compliance" and "complicated" share the same root word. Whether or not a physician's daily words of wisdom would increase a patient's desire to make good choices remains to be seen.

Regardless, there is no doubt that social networking will find its way into the doctor patient relationship. And if it can make a difference, physicians and patients should embrace it.

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