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Physicians Who Use Social Media and Other Internet-Based Communication Technologies

What kinds of doctors—males or females; older or younger—use Web technology? And does it make a difference if they work in a private practice, group practice, clinic, or a hospital setting? A CDC study looks at which doctors used a variety of Web technologies, including—

  • Social networking sites such as Sermo, Twitter, UpToDate, and LinkedIn.
  • Portable devices like cellphones, smartphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), or iPods to download information from the Internet.
  • E-mail to communicate with patients.
  • Podcasts.
  • Widgets.
  • RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds to be notified of new content.
  • Blogs.


In July 2009, 1,750 doctors in the United States answered survey questions about their technology use during the previous six months. Doctors included in the survey were primary care physicians, pediatricians, obstetrician/gynecologists, and dermatologists. The survey used was Porter Novell’s DocStyles, an annual Web-based survey that looks at the attitudes and clinical practices of U.S. physicians and allied health professionals.

Major Findings

  • Nearly 81% said they used a mobile device to access the Web.
  • 59% reporting using social networking sites.
  • 49% said they sent e-mail messages to patients.
  • More than 41% said they listened to podcasts.
  • 22% reported using widgets.
  • 19% reported receiving information through RSS feeds.
  • 12.9% said they wrote or commented in a blog.

The study shows that of the doctors taking part in the survey, those who were most likely to use Web technology were male, younger (35 to 44 years old), and had privileges at a teaching hospital.

The study was conducted for CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign to provide campaign planners with information about the best ways to reach health care providers.


Cooper CP, Gelb CA, Rim SH, Hawkins NA, Rodriguez JL, Polonec L. Physicians who use social media and other Internet-based communication technologies. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 2012;19(6):960–964.