Dr. Attai Leads the Way on Social Media for MD’s

Fully half of Americans now participate in social media — and the impact of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other new media is growing every day.

Given those numbers, it’s especially surprising that there are very few doctors who take part in social media.

One happy exception to that rule is Deanna Attai, M.D. a noted breast surgeon and head of the Center for Breast Care, in Burbank, Calif. She’s proof that even a very busy doctor can find time to be online.

Like many MD’s, Dr. Attai has a website (http://www.cfbci.com). But her online presence extends well beyond that.

She participates daily on Twitter (@drattai) where she has more than 750 followers. She’s on LinkedIn and has a channel on YouTube. She’s a guest blogger for the integrative medicine site http://www.morrisonhealth.com, where she recently blogged about a gluten-free diet.

“I like the ability social media gives me to reach a wider audience and do what I love to do, which is teach and educate,” she says. “I try to keep my online activities within the realm of things I would talk to my patients about,” she says.

But Dr. Attai’s realm is broader than that of many breast surgeons. Taking a more holistic approach, she’s just as likely to write about general health and wellness as she is to talk about specific breast cancer issues.

Dr. Attai is one of the pioneers in physician social media.

“It’s all about getting information out,” agrees Dr. Attai.

Not one to limit her activities to simple tweets, she’s been quick to expand the Twitter platform. For example, she’s a regular participant in the weekly, live Twitter chats about breast cancer and social media, which you can track on Twitter through “#BCSM.”

Like everyone who is active on social media, however, Dr. Attai notes that there are limits. She’s careful to keep her personal life out of her social media postings. And her medical office, where she spends at least 10 hours a day, is officially a “no twitter zone.”

Look for her social media profile to continue to grow. She firmly believes that one way to be an even better physician is to communicate online, adding: “It gives patients a way to see another side of me.”

IV Needleless Connectors and Infection Risk

It’s an inevitable part of medicine that changes in technology have unintended consequences — and that not all of them are favorable consequences.

One example is the implementation of needleless connectors for IV catheters. Designed to protect healthcare workers against accidental needlesticks, these IV connectors are used hundreds of millions of times in the US every year.

However, the same connectors are also proving to be a source of potentially dangerous central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs).

Gregory Schears, M.D., a widely published critical care specialist and the physician liaison to the PICC team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., spoke on this topic at a meeting earlier this summer sponsored by the Joint Commission.

The prestigious and influential Joint Commission, which is the primary accreditor of healthcare facilities in the US, built its annual conference around the theme of “Come Together: A Gathering of Leading Ideas in Quality and Safety.” Dr. Schears’ talk was titled “Needleless Connectors: Where Did We Go Wrong and How Do We Make It Right?”

He began his talk by tracing the history of needles and needle-safety technology in medicine. While needleless IV connectors are very effective at protecting healthcare workers, he said, they introduce new levels of risk to patients.

“We have gone into a series of unintended consequences where what was right for the healthcare worker now may be harmful to the patient,” he said. Safety technology has largely solved the problem of accidental needlesticks during the delivery of infusion therapy, but he added: “Our responses with needleless connectors have jeopardized patient care because of the increasing risk of infection.”

How to solve this dilemma?

Dr. Schears and others are investigating the possibility that passive technologies — such as an inexpensive, twist-on disinfection cap to protect and disinfect needleless connectors between line accesses — might be part of the solution.

“We probably need to look to passive technologies such as this to help us out,” he said. His research is exploring “the question of what we can do, to help reduce colonization and subsequent infections that are associated with needleless connectors.”

Dr. Schears will be speaking about his research, at the upcoming annual conference of the Association for Vascular Access in early October. He describes his research in a brief video on disinfection caps, which you can view as part of this blog.