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January 24, 2019

The Increasing Role of Social Media in Otolaryngology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2019;145(3):203-204. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2018.4035

About 20 years ago, a parent emailed me information about a new therapy and asked me if I had heard of it. I assured her that, indeed, I was familiar with the treatment regimen. While that interaction predated the social media era, it was a glimpse into the future where patients would use the web to communicate with their physicians and, to a certain extent, vice versa. That future is now, and it is known as social media.

Social media, also known as social networks, are internet-based tools that allow communication between parties. The communication can be in the form of messages, information, ideas, images, and other things. Needless to say, the omnipresence of social media is a phenomenon whose time has come. In 2014, it was estimated that 87% of physicians aged 26 to 55 years used social media, as did 65% of physicians aged 56 to 75 years.1 This technology now represents such a force in our field that it would be an understatement to say that it has changed the practice of medicine. The development of the internet in the latter half of the 20th century, the introduction of the smartphone, and the advent of mobile computing software known as “apps” have made this phenomenon a reality. And, as suggested by Steehler et al,2 patients have been empowered by its use.

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