Dr. Patel’s 12 Steps to Smart and Safe Social Media Communication


• Social media is no longer new.
Doctors, surgeons, healthcare providers, hospitals, surgery centers, and practices have had 6 to 10 years to participate.

No promise of benefit is likely to convince anyone now.

• Levels of participation



Personal participators

Believers and adopters

• Leaders in healthcare will increasingly come from the last group.

Communication skills – voice of healthcare
Public will choose them as leaders.
If you want to lead, you have to learn to communicate.

This is no longer social media, it’s communication.

Objective: You can communicate with the public in a safe, smart way by following these 12 principles.

• True for surgeons, physicians, nurses, practice managers, surgery center administrators, practices, surgery centers and hospitals

1. See the benefits in social media instead of the risks.

• Get your message out to the public.
Fear of social media likely misplaced
No ability to control what other people say
We can control what we say and what information we get out.

• If you don’t participate, only what others say is available for people to find.

2. Understand and follow the social media guidelines of your institution.

• Personal vs. institution?
• Discuss your plans, vision, goals up front

3. You can participate without creating content.

• Content creation
Blog – write blog posts

Videos – live or recorded


Websites, magazines, newspapers, etc – articles, interviews

• Content curation
Lists of articles from others

Sharing others’ articles on Facebook or Twitter Dispelling myths

4. Start slowly and build.

• Don’t try to be everywhere online at first.

• Re-purpose content.

5. Communicate to help others instead of promoting yourself.

• People don’t care about you.
• Create content that helps them in their lives.
• “Backside” branding

6. Look to role models, not medical organizations, for social media guidance.

• Medical organizations not equipped to lead in social media


Based on existing platforms

New platforms created every few weeks

Based on mistakes people have made in the past

• Not possible to foresee every possibility

7. Assume everything you publish online can be seen by everyone.

• Blog posts, podcasts, videos open to public
• Facebook, Twitter more time sensitive
• Even in “closed” platforms, information can be captured, shared.

Ex. Facebook personal profile vs page

8. Decide what you want to share and what you don’t.

• Acceptable if you want Kids

Personal interests

• Generally not a good idea

Political views

Religious opinions

• Not appropriate


Alcohol and other lifestyle choices

9. Avoid patient-specific discussions.

• No difference between physical environments and online
• Gray areas that don’t technically violate confidentiality
• Examples to teach or illustrate points, not to assume or criticize

10. Avoid giving medical advice online.

• Existing patients
• General public – non-patients

11. Online relationships with patients

• Friends? Followers? Fans? Connections?
• Strict rules miss the point.
• What matters is how you engage with the public.

12. Don’t lash out at people who leave negative reviews.

• Only draws more attention
• Respond politely and offer to discuss offline.
• Fill the internet with your content.
• Collect positive reviews.

Conclusion – last appeal to participate

• Losing our voice and autonomy
• Must get our voice out, heard
• Make the future better for ourselves and our colleagues
• Make a difference in the lives of the public