Patients, more than ever before, are doing their medical research online. Whether they’re looking for more information about plastic surgery procedures or searching for the right doctor, social media has given them an outlet to make a connection and discover new information. According to the founder and CEO of RealSelf, Tom Seery, “one in four U.S. adults share their health experiences on social media channels.” RealSelf is a popular online information-sharing community that allows patients to share photos and reviews and also connect with physicians.
Not only do people want to hear from other patients, they want to hear from the doctor directly. “It’s important for patients to find a physician they can identify with; someone they can feel comfortable with and trust,” says Shaun Parson, a board certified plastic surgeon in Phoenix, Arizona. The Plastic Surgery Channel recently sat down for an interview with Dr. Parson to talk about the ways social media has made its mark in plastic surgery and in his own practice.
by Carolynn Grimes
and Shaun Parson, MD
The PSC: How does social media fit in to plastic surgery?
SP: How does it not fit in? We just don’t live in that world anymore. Social media is a natural fit for plastic surgery. It’s very visual and plastic surgeons are very visual. We’re all about the aesthetic. Social media is a great way to reach out and touch patients and keep them interested in the latest and greatest procedures and technology in our field.
The PSC: How has social media affected your practice?
SP: It’s been very positive. Patients like to evaluate our practice. They want to be a part of things. I think social media invites them in and holds their attention. And it doesn’t have to be all fluff. You can deliver powerful messages and do it in a very tasteful way. You can do it in a very private way too. It’s not just about showing before and after’s from surgery, it’s about giving good information or highlighting products you carry in your office.
The PSC: How do you reach different patient populations?
SP: I got an idea when I was driving through Starbucks. The “point system” came up, and we offer the same thing in our practice where we offer points when people come in. We want to reward our best patients, so we have an app on everyone’s phone and a point system so they can get a little bit extra. They get to hear about specials and benefits, and people really respond and like that.
It’s not just about the 60 or 70 year old who wants to come in for a face lift. It’s about the 30 year old who needs better sunscreen because it’s summer. It’s about the 40 year old who may feel like they have a little bit of extra fat under their neck and they want to deal with that in a non-surgical way.
It’s a really nice way to show them the new products, to not be intrusive or bang down the door, but to do it in a tasteful way that is fitting on social media.
The PSC: How do you feel about the transparency that goes along with social media?
SP: I think for a qualified, board certified surgeon who has good work, transparency is a good thing. Patients have a chance to share and there’s a really honest flow of information. They’re excited when I do a good job– I want them to be excited, I want them to tell their friends. I don’t want them to feel like there’s this veil of secrecy.
Plastic surgery is an accepted thing nowadays. That’s where social media steps in and it’s okay. Obviously with good taste and obviously with permission. It’s a normal evolution of what’s really going on in the world. Social media lets patients know who I am and we’re now able to reach out to patients in ways we’ve never been able to do before.