September 29, 2011
The New Doctor-Patient Handshake
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is scheduled to speak at 8 a.m. on Oct. 10 during the Cerner Health Conference. We encourage you to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.
One of my mentors in residency told me that the pediatrician
handshake was different, unique, and instinctive. Instead of grasping a child’s
palm firmly, the handshake is the ritual of touching the top of a baby or
toddler’s head, palpating the anterior
fontanelle (soft spot). Often, it’s one of the first things we do when we
meet our new patients.
As I see it, our handshake is changing again thanks to the opportunities
afforded by social media and innovative technology. As a practicing
pediatrician, I firmly believe I have an ethical obligation to share my expertise
and my experience in pediatrics online. As a doctor, technology simply makes it
easier. Social networks really can ease communication between my patients and
But so far, it’s difficult. Concerns about security, professional
roles, and imperfect platforms stand in my way. Yet the truth remains: medicine
is far from static and being online allows me to share what I learn every week with
my patients even when they are outside of the exam room. Instead of only
hearing about new research and health news from traditional media, they can
hear about it from me.
My friend Susannah Fox from The Pew Internet Project studies the
social impact of the internet. Her data confirms my instinct: our patients are
online, talking amongst themselves about their health and searching for good health
information. She talks about peer-to-peer health care, how “a wealth of
information from peers [can] supplement the wealth of information from
- 75% of adults in the US have internet access,
95% of teens in the US have internet access, while 6 out of 10 adults go online
- Half of all US adults use a social networking
- 80% of US internet users are searching for
health information online.
I contend I must be online; I want to marry my perspective and expertise with
that of my patients and community. Join me on October 10 to
hear my perspectives on how technology can connect patients with their
clinicians. And, Experience the Possible
that awaits us all, as doctors and as patients.
Dr. Swanson is a practicing pediatrician and the mother of two young boys. She's passionate about improving the way media discusses pediatric health news and influences parents’ decisions when caring for their children.