By Guest Blogger Monty Pal, M.D., a member of SWOG's digital engagement committee

These days, it’s hard to flip on a news channel or sift through a newspaper without seeing a hashtag or a handle – both staples of social media. As an oncologist, I am on my cell phone all day, getting advice from colleagues, coordinating patient appointments and hospital meetings, scanning news. And can you imagine conducting clinical trials before the Internet? Publications are online, protocols are online – and so are your collaborators, via email, text, and Twitter.

Here at SWOG, I’m working with a group of physician researchers and patient advocates who are dreaming up ways to use the Internet to define, design, develop, and deliver the very best cancer clinical trials. This group, the digital engagement committee, is headed by Dr. Don Dizon from Massachusetts General Hospital. The committee is creating a vision and writing an action plan to use new digital tools to better connect with members, better connect with the public, and better conduct trials and disseminate their results. We need your help.

• As a member, what SWOG news do you want to get? By email, Tweet, website?

• Which SWOG members do you want to connect with? Why and how?

• Do you use social media professionally? If so, why? Or why not?

• What’s the most useful digital tool can SWOG provide?

Tell us by going to the homepage and filling out our digital engagement survey. Please do so now. Your responses are important!

The digital engagement committee will use results to develop a plan for improving internal communication and collaboration. Whether it’s a new web feature, a mobile app, or a different way to harness the power of social media, we want to hear from you.

A recent Canadian study surveyed 207 physicians. About 55% of respondents noted using social media to network with colleagues, and 17% used it to share research. The digital engagement committee wants to track similar trends within SWOG, and seize new opportunities.

We’re not alone. Other membership organizations such as ASCO and AACR have turned to Twitter and Facebook as a means of broadcasting meeting highlights, sharing research results, and connecting their members. Oncologists can also use mobile apps to get information on drug interactions and dosing, find NCCN reimbursement guidelines, access journal articles, and even securely text with patients. There’s even an online game – Oncology Guru – that lets physicians test their knowledge. Winners get a free consultation with an expert of their choice – including SWOG members like Dr. Robert Orlowski and even ASCO President Dr. Julie Vose. How cool is that?

Please tell us what online tools would help you design and develop great cancer trials. Our survey will be open on until May 1, and available at the group meeting later this month. In San Francisco, we’ll also report preliminary survey results at the digital engagement committee session. Thanks for your help – and here’s to faster, better, and more cancer trials.