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Reader questions utility of SERMO social network

In a letter to the editor, a SearchHealthIT reader expresses concerns with the anonymous nature of the physician social network SERMO.

Editor's note: received this feedback in response to the article, SERMO more than a social network for doctors. The letter has been edited for style, but not for content.

Dear Shaun,

As a patient, this really worries me because I have seen some of the commentary on images posted on this social networking site [SERMO]. Despite the anonymity, there is sometimes a lack of regard for the dignity of the patient with some comments being too frank, misleading or sometimes even disrespectful. I worry that physicians may spend too much time considering options provided by anonymous users who may not have [the] appropriate expertise. Again, despite the anonymity, I do not like the idea that some of these images are evidently posted without patient consent.  

Despite stories of how it has assisted with knowledge sharing, I wonder in how many cases it is actually a waste of time because of some facetious and unhelpful posts. It may be good, for example, for unusual cases or in situations where the clinician is isolated. But is there not a danger that increased use will lead to the same effect on clinician's knowledge and memory as Google has evidently had on the abilities of users to retain information, meaning that it reduces the clinician's ability to draw on clinical knowledge and make judgments independently and increases reliance on an instant hit of information, a bit like a 'Wiki medicine?'  For all I know, there may already be thousands of users in the medical community here in the U.K., but is it quality-controlled in some way that would make it more appropriate for more widespread official use in a healthcare setting?

Sophie Bennett

Lincoln, U.K.

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