I use social media and now I might lose my license?

July 3, 2018

Dr. Jam is a successful medical and cosmetic dermatologist who posted a video online intended as a promotional video. His patients are suing claiming negligence. Learn more here.

Dr. Jam is a successful medical and cosmetic dermatologist with 25 years of experience. He has three millennial children who convinced him that it’s time to “get with the times” and use social media advertising to let the public know about his practice.

Within six months Dr. Jam has learned how to optimize various social media sources. As he thought about the strengths of his practice, he tried to focus on his outgoing personality, his love of music and the great work environment
he has created for his staff.

He has always enjoyed singing - and sometimes even dancing - to calm his patients’ fears and anxiety. His staf often joins him in singing and dancing while he performs surgery. Dr. Jam has videotaped a series of these musical/dance surgery episodes and uploaded them onto multiple social media sites. All patients signed the requisite release for such use.

Some of his patients found this cute, other weren’t so certain. Unfortunately for Dr. Jam, several unhappy patients have come together in a chat room and decided to f le various medical malpractice complaints against him for postsurgical infection and scarring that they claimed resulted from his interest in the music rather in their own care.

They have also f led a complaint against him with the local state board of medical examiners alleging gross negligence. They are providing the videos uploaded to his social media sites as evidence of Dr. Jam’s poor care. They also cite five previous medical malpractice lawsuits against him.

Is Dr. Jam in trouble? Does a similar case exist? Will he lose his license?

CNN recently reported on an attorney representing three women in a case against an Atlanta-area dermatologist known for singing and dancing while performing surgery.

The attorney said that nearly 100 other women contacted her of ce to claim they, too, had suffered under the doctor’s care. In the Atlanta case, on videos posted to YouTube, the dermatologist can be seen singing as she cuts into a patient or rapping and dancing with surgical instruments in hand during surgical procedures. At times, assistants in scrubs sashayed alongside her.

The attorney representing three of these women claimed they suf ered from serious post-surgical complications due to infections. The lawsuits alleged the dancing doctor was negligent in performing treatments in such a manner. In this case, many of the women were motivated, they said, to come forward due to the dermatologist’s apparent lack of care and concern for her patients - as evidenced by a staf member’s focus on filming.

At least two former patients said they identified themselves in the doctor’s video. Since the filing of the Atlanta case, the videos have since been removed from the dermatologist’s YouTube channel. However, what has been established is that more than 20 videos were once posted to YouTube, apparently for promotional purposes. It should be noted that this dermatologist had prior medical malpractice claims against her. However, all were settled and there were no negative judgments against her.

The attorney in this Atlanta case suggested that one of the most important things a patient should do before surgery, second to checking the physician’s credentials, is research the facility where procedures will be performed.

A local Georgia plastic surgeon noted that such cases should not be tried in the press. He suggested that one does not want to rush to judgment and end up making an error that could be professionally harmful.

So, is Dr. Jam in trouble? His patients will need to prove that his singing and dancing was 1) a breach in the standard of care and 2) that breach directly led to infection and bleeding.

Although his approach to calming anxiety may not be typical, it is in itself not likely to cause him to lose a medical malpractice case or, more importantly, lose his license to practice medicine.

However, even if he has no liability, Dr. Jam has learned the obvious: that social media has both strengths and weaknesses.

 

download issueDownload Issue : Dermatology Times, July 2018 (Vol. 39, No. 07)