In order to create your name as someone, you have to self-advocate and self-market. And the cheapest and easiest way to do that is through social media. —Christopher Chang, MD
Explore This IssueApril 2020
In a digital world, otolaryngologists agree that having a sophisticated online presence is paramount.
“A lot of our specialty is elective, which means that patients are empowered with time and the ability to choose their provider,” said Leslie Kim, MD, MPH, division director of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery in the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus and a founding member of the Association for Healthcare Social Media.
Take Dr. Garcia-Rodriguez, who has been in practice for about two years and works with the transgender community. To reach patients, she attends community events and has joined two facial feminization groups on Facebook. She also follows leading national transgender advocates on Instagram.
Dr. Garcia-Rodriguez explained that many members of the transgender community will use social media to spotlight doctors they’ve had good experiences with. “In terms of the trans community, a lot of the outreach and connections are through social media, through secret groups on Facebook and open groups on Facebook. For most of these groups, the leader of the group has to accept new people, and that’s where they recommend other doctors to each other.”
Dr. Garcia-Rodriguez sees Facebook as a virtual referral ground.
“People can have a gathering online and it fulfills some of the same things that word of mouth does,” she said. “People will openly talk, especially if they are incognito and have a different name; people will openly ask every embarrassing question they have, and then really scrutinize the surgeon, too, if they’re upset about something, because people don’t know who they are. It’s almost like if you went to a meeting and you never met a person, they’re more likely to tell you more information.”
Being online means having to create content that potential patients are interested in, according to Dr. Chang.
“Blog articles are to support the information that should already be on your website,” he said. “Twitter, Facebook posts should support the content that is in your blog articles or website. In other words, all roads lead to the website.”
But if content is king, that crown can be heavy, Dr. Kim warned.
“While social media is a powerful strategy for personal branding,” she said, “you have to be thoughtful and careful about digital content because it stays potentially forever.”
Dr. Chang cautioned that the same rules of privacy and disclosure that apply in the medical sphere apply to the online world.
“Don’t commit any HIPAA violations,” he said. “Don’t say on social media, ‘Hey, I just did a sinus surgery on such and such.’ That’s a given. Don’t put up pictures of you partying at a nightclub in Paris. Things like that should be a given…. All that stuff totally doesn’t fly.”