Last week, many people were astonished to hear that Dr. Kurt Kloss, an emergency room physician in New York, reached out to a Facebook group for some 20,000 of his colleagues seeking advice about how to handle the coronavirus outbreak. “If you were in charge of Federal response to the Pandemic,” his post began, “what would your recommendation be?”
The question wasn’t just hypothetical. Dr. Kloss’s daughter is married to the brother of Jared Kushner, who had been put in charge of the White House response to the pandemic. But many people commented in alarm: Crowdsourcing medical advice on social media, is that a reliable way to get life-or-death health information?
As an emergency room doctor at the front lines of the pandemic, however, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been working back-to-back shifts at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where the state’s first patient hospitalized with Covid-19 is being treated, and have had several patients test positive for the novel coronavirus. And like many of my colleagues, I have been gathering information from Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.
One private Facebook group I’m a member of, created by Dr. Kabir Rezvankhoo, an E.R. and intensive-care-unit doctor in Texas whom I used to work with, is reserved for doctors who have or are likely to care for critically ill patients with Covid-19. The group quickly grew to nearly 15,000 members. When I asked Dr. Rezvankhoo why he initiated the group, his reply was simple: “Because information on the new coronavirus is difficult to come across.”