Social media is a great asset to my obstetric practice

Patients often compliment me on how well I have l embraced social media in my obstetricSocial Media Logos practice. I appreciate very much this positive feedback. I feel very comfortable with using social media. As well, I recognise that social media is popularly used by most of my patients and so for me to embrace it as their doctor is as relevant for them as it is for me. The use of social media is a huge asset to my obstetric practice.

In the medical world, there are considerable anxieties and concerns about using social media. But doctors cannot deny social media is here to stay and will only become more relevant and more popular in the future. So to be frightened of it or to ignore it I consider folly. I believe a user of social media needs to have great respect for it and be very conscious of its potential dangers. It has to be used appropriately. A user needs to be conscious that all public posts end up in the public domain. So I suggest the correct approach is to recognise this, adapt to social media and think before posting. Before posting, the user should decide whether it is appropriate to make the post, who may view that post, privacy rights, and whether the post can cause harm to anyone, including the user. Social media is a very powerful communication tool. I can see my personal usage will only grow. I am very excited about it and its potential.

I have my own usage guidelines to which I adhere. I believe by doing so there are no usage concerns. These guidelines are listed below in relation to the relevant social media option.

My use of social media choices.

There are now many social media options. The ones I have selected for use are:

  • Facebook
  • Google Plus
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • LinkedIn

Facebook LogoFacebook

I have two Facebook pages – a ‘friends’ page and a ‘fans’ page. They each serve a different purpose:

  • Facebook friends page is for patients. A new patient is advised of it at her first antenatal visit with me. The reason for it is explained and she is invited to become my Facebook friend. I currently have 533 Facebook friends, almost all of whom are patients. I get requests from people who are not patients to be my friend and I almost always decline as this a medical practice Facebook page and not a personal Facebook page. The main uses of the Facebook friends page are:

Private messaging. This is a very popular way for patients to communicate with me and ask pregnancy questions. I check Facebook regularly. Patients frequently comment on how quickly I get back to them. It is a simple, nonintrusive way of keeping in touch. I tell patients I would much prefer that they Facebook message me a question rather than stressing, or asking friends, or asking chat room forums or asking Dr Google.

Photos. I encourage patients to share photos. I call these photos ‘proud parent’ photos, as that is what they are. They are very popular and very well received by Facebook friends because celebrating the birth of a new baby is such a special time.

I tell a patient at her first antenatal visit with me that I have two goals for her pregnancy – 1. A good outcome and 2. A good experience. A shared photo says it all, and usually means we have achieved both goals. I don’t always achieve the second goal as pregnancy and childbirth is so unpredictable and doesn’t always go according to plan. But to be able to support a woman and her baby no matter what happens in the pregnancy or with childbirth is so important and, if there has been a challenging complication of the pregnancy or childbirth, then to celebrate a good outcome because of good care is so rewarding. A shared photo in this context so special to me.

A shared photo tells me the patient appreciated my care. I like to look back at these photos and reflect on the person in the photo and her pregnancy. I have such a wonderful job and to be able to reflect this way makes it even more special. I have well over 1,000 proud parent photos shared on social media.

Timeline updates. From time to time I will post practice or hospital update news that is relevant for my patients

  • Facebook fans page. Everyone is welcome to become a fan. I currently have 406 likes. Fans are mostly people living in Australia, but quite a number are from people living in other countries.

On the fans page, I focus on timeline posts with links to relevant medical articles, and to new posts on my webpage. After I post a new article on my webpage, I promote it by posting a brief description and link on my Facebook fans page. A popular post can have thousands of views within 24 hours of posting.

Timeline updates. From time to time I will post practice or hospital update news that is relevant for my patients

My Facebook usage guidelines are…
  • I never seek/approach a patient online to be my Facebook friend. Facebook suggests people to ask to become friends. I never pursue this. I discuss with a patient at her first antenatal visit use of Facebook for personal messaging and photo sharing and invite her to become a Facebook friend. I don’t repeatedly ask a patient at subsequent antenatal visits. I don’t send her a Facebook friend request.
  • I hide my Facebook friend’s name list so it is only visible to me.
  • All proud parent photos posted on social media have been taken by patients and sent to me. None have been taken by me. Before posting, I ask the patient by email or Facebook messaging to give her permission for me to post her photos. Occasionally a patient will say she is happy for me to post the photos she has provided on the TV screen in my waiting room but not on social media. I respect this wish. Recently a patient’s husband sent me the most amazing professional video of his wife’s delivery. It was fully edited and with background music. He has his own photography and video production business. It was for my viewing only and not for posting. I enjoyed the video and respected his wish.
  • A patient’s privacy must be respected:
  • Only photos sent to me by patients are posted and only with their permission.
  • I never identify the subjects in photos. Some patients will identify themselves by tagging or posting directly on my timeline. But I will never tag a patient myself.
  • If a patient wants me to remove a photo or photos she has sent me subsequent to her giving permission to posting, then I respect her wish and take the photo(s) down. This has only happened on two occasions.
  • A blog article is promoted on social media by brief description and by a link. If I write a blog about a pregnancy or delivery experience involving a patient, I advise the patient of my intention and get her permission. And, before uploading the article, I will send it to the patient before the public can see it for her checking, comments and changes. Any personal and potentially identifiable photo attached to the article has been provided by the patient and used with her permission. I will not mention the patient’s name without her permission and if I do I will only include her first name (and only with her permission).
  • Some photos sent to me are too revealing and so I decide that they are not suitable for posting on social media. Sometimes cropping can make the photo more appropriate and suitable for posting but, with others, editing will still not overcome the concern and so they are not posted.


Google Plus LogoGoogle Plus

Usage opportunities are similar to Facebook:

  • Links. I can share links to relevant medical articles and to new posts on my webpage.
  • Proud parent photos. I can share proud parent photos.
  • Private messages. Patients can send me private messages.
  • Timeline updates. From time to time I will post practice or hospital update news that is relevant for my patients.

My Google plus site has had over 96,000 views

My Google Plus usage guidelines.

These are are the same as for Facebook.

Twitter LogoTwitter

I was shown to how to use Twitter in my medical practice at a College meeting presentation about using social media in a medical practice. The presenter was not a doctor. I embraced Twitter after that meeting and currently have 418 followers. Most of my followers live in the USA and so I haven’t seen Twitter to be a social media tool that has enhanced my Sydney-based obstetric practice. All posts on my Facebook fans page are automatically posted to my Twitter page and vice versa so maintaining the Twitter page requires minimal effort now it is established.

My Twitter usage guidelines.

These are are the same as for Facebook.

Instagram LogoInstagram

I have only very recently embraced Instagram and already have 75 followers. Instagram is now a very popular social media forum for sharing photos taken on mobile devices. I am using it as another option to share proud parent photos and some personal photos. Patients typically send photos to me as an email attachment or Facebook message attachment or post their photos directly onto my Facebook timeline, so the photos end up on my Windows-based desktop computer, not on a mobile device. Instagram will only let you upload photos from a mobile device and not from a PC. So it was a challenge to work out how to get photos from my PC to Instagram. But with ingenuity and perseverance I have worked it out and all is ok. You can view Instagram photos on a PC.

My Instagram usage guidelines.

I do not tag the patient who has sent me the photo.

Youtube LogoYouTube

I have a YouTube channel with 12 videos. Most are of unborn babies at different weeks of pregnancy. I need to develop this channel more as there is great opportunity to add videos on various topics. It is a matter of setting aside time to do this and working out the best way of doing it. I plan it to be a project in the near future. My YouTube channel has had almost 5,000 views to date.

My YouTube usage guidelines.

I do not identify the patient who sent me the video.

Flickr LogoFlickr

Flickr is another website where I have been able to share proud parent photos. It is particularly useful for people who do not have social media accounts.

My Flickr usage guidelines.

I do not tag the patient who has sent me the photo.

LinkedIn LogoLinkedIn

I consider LinkedIn as more of a professional sharing website with opportunity for private messaging, posting professional articles and for job hunting (not relevant for me). Currently, I have 106 connections. My connection principle is the same as for Facebook. I don’t seek out new connections. Most connection requests sent to me are not from patients.

My LinkedIn usage guidelines.

Any post made on LinkedIn is a post that has been written as an article for my website. The article maybe reposted on LinkedIn or there may be a link to my website where the article is posted. If the post is about a pregnancy or delivery experience involving a patient, I already advised the patient of my intention to post on social media and have her permission before writing. I will have sent the article to the patient before posting for her checking, comments and changes. Any personal and potentially identifiable photo attached to the article has been provided by the patient and used with her permission. I will not mention the patient’s name without her permission and if I do I will only include her first name (and only with her permission).

Posted by Dr Gary Sykes on - Obstetrics

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