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Musings/Opinions/Tips and Experiences

Dermatology and social networking sites

Madke, Bhushan

Author Information
Indian Dermatology Online Journal: Sep–Dec 2012 - Volume 3 - Issue 3 - p 211-212
doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.101824
  • Open

Social networks aren’t about Web sites. They’re about experiences.”

Mike DiLorenzo, NHL Social Media Marketing Director[1]

Social networking site like Facebook is just like a prison where you sit idle, stare at a wall, and write something on it.

The above two quotes depict entirely two opposite aspects of social networking reflecting positive and negative impact, respectively. In today's era, social networking can now be called as the “Eighth Continent of the World” whose “citizen” ranges from a school-going kid to a disgruntled professor and has become an instant hit, irrespective of class and creed.

Keeping in mind the mammoth clientele and massive potential of these social networking sites, everyone is trying to tap its reserves, be it a for political rally or an anticorruption drive. The health and medicare industry is leaving no stone unturned to reap benefits out of social networking sites.

Nowadays, every branch of medicine and surgery has its presence on these sites in one form or the other. Social networking sites could prove to be a boon to dermatology as a speciality. Several open access group discussion forums such as Archives of Dermatology [Figure 1], British Journal of Dermatology, and Indian Journal of Dermatology [Figure 2] are already well established on these social networking sites and engaging many bright and experienced minds of our speciality. According to the author, social networking sites can help us in our day-to-day patient care by providing a platform for sharing clinical photos and seeking prized opinions and tips from experienced teachers sitting far away.

Figure 1:
Home page of Archives of Dermatology on a popular social networking site [Last accessed on December 19, 2011]
Figure 2:
Home page of discussion forum Indian Journal of Dermatology on Facebook [Last accessed on December 19, 2011]

Many of our young colleagues and postgraduate students can utilize these forums positively by raising questions and clearing the doubts in their minds. One of the chief advantages is clinical photo sharing, where one can seek the opinion of other fellow colleagues on a given topic ranging from differential diagnosis to patient management and controversies in management. It is a good forum to conduct healthy, goal-oriented discussion and brainstorming arguments that engage everyone, including the senior members. Post graduate students and younger specialists are particularly benifited by such discussions as they are uninhibited by the authority of senior members. However, the main and serious concern of clinical photo sharing on an unrestricted access forum is plagiarism, where strangers or colleagues may download clinical pictures posted in such forums and use them for paper presentations and even publications without permission. Another major concern of uploading patient photographs on social networking sites is that of maintaining confidentiality of the patient. It is a common practice among busy consultants to upload clinical photographs of their patients without obtaining proper consent. This makes them liable for civil suits in a court of law, especially, when the patient is a member of these social networking sites.

Another good use of these sites is free publicity for online journal issues and events such as conferences and continuing medical education programmes. It cannot be overemphasized that classroom and bedside teaching are obligatory for undergraduate and postgraduate training. However, such teaching activities are mentor-driven and most of the time didactic, where students have minimal scope for raising queries. In contrast, virtual classrooms on these social media sites provide a unique and limitless opportunity for students of medicine to participate actively and voice their opinions across the worldwide web.

Dermatology as a branch of medicine is blessed with the option of archiving clinical information as images. When placed on social networking websites such images form a virtual library and a great learning resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students. However, the views quoted on these forums need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Due common sense and application of mind should prevail while interpreting such “online” opinions.

The fervent hope is that the dermatology fraternity further consolidate itelf on social networking websites as one giant family without hierarchy and contribute to better understanding of the subject.


1. Lastaccessed on 2011 Dec 19 Available from:

Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: No.

© 2012 Indian Dermatology Online Journal | Published by Wolters Kluwer – Medknow