When Heather Logghe, MD, emerged as an expert in why and how surgeons can use social media channels, Rajesh Aggarwal, MD, PhD, (See Innovation) recruited her to Jefferson as a Surgical Research Fellow. In addition to founding the #ILookLikeASurgeon movement, Dr. Logghe is a co-author of “Best Practices for Surgeons’ Social Media Use: Statement of the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons.” She also serves as the Society’s social media chair.
Dr. Logghe explains that encouraging surgeons to embrace social media is a relatively new trend. In the earliest days of social networks, all physicians were advised to completely avoid Facebook and Twitter. Among the fears: physicians breaching patient confidentiality, patients asking for medical advice and photos showing physicians behaving unprofessionally. By 2015, however, the American College of Surgeons began debating whether social media is a threat to professionalism or an essential part of surgical practice.
“As a result of that, many surgeons realized that social media is here to stay and offers a lot of potential benefits,” Dr. Logghe says. “It behooves us to figure out how to do it safely and professionally.”
Working under the direction of Dr. Aggarwal, Dr. Logghe is studying how surgical departments can use social media. She notes that most now have a Facebook and Twitter presence, but departments may focus those accounts in different ways. Some engage with patients, some with other medical professionals. Other departments use the channels to support recruiting. There is also variation in who is managing these departmental accounts.
“We’ll be looking at the approaches and benefits,” Dr. Logghe says. “In addition to conducting a survey, we’re doing a literature review on whether patient commentary on social media reflects the findings of more traditional patient surveys.”
She says that beyond departmental use, individual surgeons can benefit from using the channels to highlight their scientific work, share other important studies and educate and engage with patients. It can also help surgeons in rural areas feel less isolated – while providing all surgeons a unique window into the patient experience through the candid comments and stories patients share on social platforms.
In short, social media’s benefits now outweigh potential risks so long as surgeons are mindful of how these channels blend personal and professional.
“For doctors, professionalism is nothing new,” she says. “Any physician who can conduct himself or herself appropriately on a crowded hospital elevator can do the same on social media. If you wouldn’t be comfortable saying something in a crowded elevator, it probably isn’t appropriate on Facebook or Twitter, either.”
"Getting ‘Social’: Surgeons Use Online Networks to Share Science, Educate Patients and Improve Public Health,"
Jefferson Surgical Solutions: Vol. 13:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://jdc.jefferson.edu/jss/vol13/iss1/5