Social media continues to excel at reaching patients, medical peers

August 1, 2012

Social media allow for efficient networking with patients and colleagues, but using these tools successfully with patients requires setting limits and delegating authority.

Key Points

"Social media can take up your whole day," says Barry Lycka M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology, University of Alberta. Although spending time on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is enjoyable, he says, dermatologists must constantly ask themselves, "Is this going to help my business? Is it going to be worth the time and the effort?"

For many physicians, he says, "It has to be. It seems there's nothing sexier than social media these days. It can get your message out - with a firm grasp. People who are on social media believe what you say much more readily than any other community, and you can get your message out to thousands of people instantly. Social media also has impact in that it enhances your status."

Dr. Lycka also hosts a monthly Web TV show called yourcosmeticdoctor.tv. "Any time I do a show," he says, "it goes into my social media automatically" in the form of links to his practice's Facebook page and other pages.

Managing negativity

Unlike traditional media, Dr. Lycka says, social media are by definition interactive. Therefore, "It's very important that people write back" about things they've seen or read online. However, occasional negative comments are unavoidable.

Negative comments can provide valuable lessons, Dr. Lycka says. Perhaps more importantly, "I love negative comments because they allow me to make a positive comment," he says, thereby turning the situation to his advantage. "The trick is to have somebody to do this for you."

In this area, Dr. Lycka hires experts outside of his regular staff to provide frequent social media updates and timely replies to online questions and inquiries.

As for negative reviews, Dr. Lycka says, "There's a big controversy - some people say you should never confront a negative review. You shouldn't throw mud at them because you're giving them some credence. I believe that's wrong - you must address negative reviews. Otherwise, people think you have something to hide."

Just because a person posts a negative review, he says, "That doesn't mean you can't change their opinion. But think three times about wording your response. Don't do it out of anger." Sometimes all it takes is respectfully pointing out that complications do occur in aesthetic surgery, and some are beyond the physician's control, he explains.

Overall, "You have to know what you want to put on social media, and you must have a plan," Dr. Lycka says.