President's Message: Social Media: A Powerful Tool When Used Appropriately

Jul 30, 2018, 09:08 AM by Asokumar Buvanendran, MD

Social media has completely changed our culture and way of life in a relatively short time frame. It's hard to imagine that at one time, phones only made phone calls, cameras were needed to take pictures, and awkward blind dates were your first chance to check out potential mates.

“By having these kinds of discussions, albeit virtually, we can learn from one another, expand perspectives, and raise awareness.”

Even in just the past 3 years, many of my colleagues have moved away from thinking Twitter was for chatting about breakfast to realizing that Twitter is an important part of providing high-quality patient care. As ASRA Board Member Ed Mariano, MD, wrote in his 2016 piece, “Why All Doctors Should Be on Twitter,” “Twitter provides an invaluable resource for conversations across the globe, finding and disseminating research, and enriching the conference experience.” Dr Mariano provided several examples of the power of social media, including the fact that “highly tweeted articles are 11 times more likely to be cited by future publications than articles that are not tweeted.” That means 11 times more awareness of data that may be critical for the improvement of practice.[1]

ASRA uses social media to facilitate information sharing, and the best example is probably during our annual meetings and workshops, where the conversation can happen during the talks and even involve those who aren't present. The conversation continues long after the meeting as well, and ASRA publishes a transcript of the Twitter hashtag feed on its meeting page. Each ASRA annual meeting has surpassed the previous one in the number of Twitter impressions. ASRA's members have even studied the effect of this social media activity, culminating in journal articles on the subject.[2, 3] Six weeks before our 2018 World Congress on Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, the #ASRAWorld18 hashtag already had nearly 2 million impressions.

ASRA promotes the use of social media to provide value for our members, including Facebook Live discussions from the exhibit hall and live chats with designated hashtags during specific sessions. A team of social media power users is assembled for each meeting to give attendees suggestions of who to follow throughout the meeting. Informal meet and greets in the exhibit hall provide a way for participants to meet—and often they do so as if seeing old friends again, despite having never been in the same room before. We understand the importance of providing value for your membership to ASRA, including through social networking such as this.

The ASRA News has a popular problem-based learning discussion feature in which a case scenario is shared on Twitter and people are encouraged to weigh in on how they would manage a patient's care. Later, the results are summarized along with opinions of selected physicians. By having these kinds of discussions, albeit virtually, we can learn from one another, expand perspectives, and raise awareness.

Social media also gives us a chance to just talk about ASRA. Where you used to have to write an e-mail or make a phone call, you can now post to @ASRA_Society, which then helps anyone else who thought it but didn't say it.

With all of its benefit for our ASRA members, we also have to be cautious about social media, just as we must be cautious about all of the technology attacking our senses throughout the day. For starters, it tends to make us feel things are more urgent than they really are. In 2013, Dr John Mandrola warned doctors on that although technology moves at a fast pace, we must remember the permanency of digital media. “You are a doctor, not a journalist,” he wrote. “You have time.”[4]

Psychology and sociology experts have studied extensively the effects of social media on mental health and the relationship between reward centers in our brains and positive or negative responses to posts and notifications.[5] Facebook itself shared research in December 2017 indicating that active users had worse mental health than average and finding a connection between technology use and teen depression. However, that same report cited examples of studies that found a correlation between improved mental health and social media, indicating that more research is needed.[6]

For a busy doctor carrying around a cell phone that is constantly alerting him or her to new messages, reminders, Twitter chats, likes, followers, breaking news, and more, social media may be just another factor contributing to physician burnout. The constant need to be plugged in can take a toll on anyone, with smartphone addiction becoming a real condition and a National Day of Unplugging held each March aimed at helping all of us deal with that condition.

Physician burnout is a serious problem, and it's no stretch to think that our use of devices is a contributing factor for some people. So, although I encourage that we all take advantage of the benefits of social media to be better doctors, I would also like to remind you of the importance of unplugging now and then to also be a better doctor.

Check out ASRA's Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages, and read more about ASRA's social media activity at the 2018 World Congress on Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.


  1. Mariano ER. Why all doctors should be on Twitter. Available at: Published June 15, 2016. Accessed March 12, 2018.
  2. Schwenk ES, Jaremko KM, Gupta RK, et al. Upgrading a social media strategy to increase Twitter engagement during the spring annual meeting of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine. Reg Anesth Pain Med 2017;42(3):283–288.
  3. Schwenk ES, Chu LF, Gupta RK, Mariano ER. How social media is changing the practice of regional anesthesiology. Curr Anesthesiol Rep 2017;7(2):238–245.
  4. Mandrola J. 10 simple rules for doctors on social media. Available at: Published May 26, 2013. Accessed March 12, 2018.
  5. East S. Teens: this is how social media affects your brain. Available at: Published August 1, 2016. Accessed March 12, 2018.
  6. VOA. Facebook admits social media can harm mental health. Available at: Published December 20, 2017. Accessed March 12, 2018.
Load more comments
New code
Comment by from
Close Nav