October 11, 2011
CHC 2011 General Session Recap: Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson
On Oct. 10, 2011, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson spoke during the
Monday General Session at the Cerner Health Conference. Below is a recap of her
Blogger, mother and pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, said
doctors must start using social media to reach out to patients and parents in
her General Session address Monday at the Cerner Health Conference. Citing the Pew Research Center, Dr. Swanson said 65
percent of Americans participate in a social network and 80 percent of Internet
users look up health information.
“We cannot just see our patients in the exam room,” said Dr.
Swanson, who shares personal anecdotes about her family together with
scientific information on her blog, Seattle Mama Doc.
She’s also active on Twitter under the username @SeattleMamaDoc.
“We need to be where people are,” she said in her
presentation, “Fundamental Partnerships: Regaining Trust in the Time of
Twitter.” Dr. Swanson told a packed crowd at the Kansas City Convention Center
that when she was a resident, she learned about the “pediatrician handshake,”
in which a doctor places his or her hand on an infant’s head to feel the soft
Now, she said, “I think the handshake is changing.”
Clinicians need to experience using Twitter, Facebook and
YouTube videos to interact with patients, she said. Doctors also must be
willing to share more of themselves to create a true partnership for better
“We have the great fortune to live in a time when we can
communicate outside these walls,” said Dr. Swanson, who also works as a
pediatrician in private practice twice a week.
The voice of science
Patients and parents alike are bombarded with information
from a plethora of sources, Dr. Swanson said. As a result, people confuse individual
experience with expertise. Doctors have a responsibility to help patients and
parents sift through the information they read, see and hear — to be the “voice
of science,” she said.
“If we don’t tell our stories, we can’t compete,” she said.
Twitter was an invaluable resource for Dr. Swanson during
the H1N1 scare in 2009. One of the country’s first documented cases occurred in
Washington state — in her office — and she kept up with the latest treatment
recommendations through the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention’s Twitter feed.
Getting the word out
Sometimes, Dr. Swanson uses her blog to communicate ahead of
the news cycle. When she learned about a new study that found children should stay
rear-facing in their car seats up to age 2, instead of age 1, she published a
post about it 15 months before the study was published in an academic journal.
Dr. Swanson often personalizes her posts on her blog to
better connect with readers. Instead of just writing about why everyone in a
health care organization should get a flu shot, she included photos of herself
getting her flu shot.
“I want people to trust their doctors,” she said.
After her speech, attendees praised Dr. Swanson’s vision and
her sense of humanity.
“As a mother, health care professional and clinician, Dr.
Swanson’s passion for what she does clearly comes through,” said Julie DeVries,
BSN, RN, director of clinical informatics at Somerset Medical Center in
Somerville, N.J. “I appreciate and hope we can all apply what she said about
how listening is key to relationships and building a partnership with your
patients, your family and your community.”