Pleasant Hill pediatrician puts Twitter to use

February 1, 2010 7:12:35 PM PST
A Bay Area pediatrician is using the social networking web site Twitter to help keep his patients' parents in the loop about the latest medical information that may impact their childrens' health.

Pleasant Hill mom Jody Iorns follows her children's pediatrician on Twitter.

"He's a trusted source. So, the information he puts out, the articles, the links to the different medical information, is most of the time, very applicable to my life and what I'm experiencing with my children," she says referring to Dr. Rahul Parikh at Kaiser Permanente.

Iorns is one of 100 of Dr. Rahul Parikh's patient families who signed up to track him on the popular social networking site.

"What I wanted to do was give them a place where I could at least point them in the right direction to health care information that was going on around them," Parikh says.

Parikh recently tweeted about a New York Times article regarding the dangers of using a spoon to dispense medications to children. He has also sent out the latest information about the H1N1 virus.

"If you can help point your patients in the right direction, to reassure them rather than scare them, with information on the internet, then I think you've accomplished something that's valuable," Parikh says.

In a Detroit operating room in 2009, surgeons used Twitter to update their progress during a new procedure to remove a tumor from a kidney. Parikh has not taken it that far.

Besides Twitter, he communicates with individual parents by email using Kaiser's secure electronic medical record system. He has even diagnosed a rash by looking at a digital photo sent to him by the patient's mother.

Parikh envisions a day when web cam consultations could replace at least some in-person visits between doctor and patient. Fewer doctor visits could help control the skyrocketing costs of healthcare.