To establish and maintain a professional medical image in social media, pay careful attention to the content of posts. Be aware that social media content is admissible as evidence in courts of law.
Social media isnât all fun and games. Itâs serious business and keeping oneâs professionalism is paramount. Dermatologistsâ activities on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social networking sites can and will be used for and against them, according to David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D.
Dr. GoldbergâAll materials on these sites can be used as evidence (both positive and negative) in a court of law and by state board of medical examiners. Most common suits are for either medical malpractice or fraud,â according to Dr. Goldberg, clinical professor of dermatology and director of laser research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Dr. Goldberg is also an adjunct law professor at Fordham Law School.
Dermatologists, like all physicians, should separate their personal and professional lives on social media platforms and adhere to professional standards of practice, according to experts. On Facebook, for example, that means having a practice page and a very separate personal page, blocked from general view with privacy settings.
Should dermatologists âfriendâ their patients? Dr. Goldberg says itâs best to keep friendly activities on personalânot practice or professionalâpages.
âIf a personal site does this, it may be perceived as fraternization with patientsâraising thorny ethical issues,â Dr. Goldberg says.
If youâre goal is to gain followers and improve your professional presence, youâll want to avoid topics that might alienate the very people youâre trying to reach.
Dr. VartabedianâIt really depends on how you view your feed and how you view your public presence. For most physicians, they want to maintain a professional presence in public. Similarly, when you are on a couple of platforms, where there are patients and hospital administrators, and your colleagues are there, youâre going to conduct yourself like you would if you were in a restaurant in public or a meeting,â says Bryan Vartabedian, M.D., pediatrician, assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and founder of 33Charts.com, a blog he started in 2009, which explores the intersection of medicine, social media and technology.
Highly-charged personal opinions about controversial topics are, in most cases, better left to your personal conversations and platforms. Dr. Vartabedian says that he avoids religion and politics, tends not to talk about alcohol, and doesnât badmouth his employer and hospital.
âThere are some physicians who are really passionate about the fact that we, as physicians, should be talking about politics, and we should be politically active. I get that,â Dr. Vartabedian says. âBut if you take the Presidential campaign during the last electionâ¦letâs say youâre a dermatologist and you had a very busy and active Twitter following. If you started talking about which candidate you were endorsing or behind, you would very likely have alienated half the people you were following.â
Social media engagement means revealing your character and parts of your personality. So, while doctors need to keep things professional, they should try to avoid coming across mechanically or robotically.
Patricia RedsickerPatricia Redsicker, social media manager for the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and a former social media consultant for dermatologists and others, says it helps to build relationships when doctors show personality. Some might sign off on blogs and some posts with their first name, like Dr. Joe.
âIâve been talking to this family doctor in New Jersey, and he always signs off âGregâ on Google +. I feel like I know him. Makes him more approachable and likeable,â Redsicker says. âDefinitely show your personality, but be careful with the actual content of the conversation.â