The use of social media can help you establish yourself as the expert on the situation and provide solutions.
Agustin L. Gonzalez
It is our responsibility as doctors to inform and educate our patients
in the event of a product recall. Todays social media platforms provide
great tools for office promotion and marketing and brand management that can
turn a chaotic product recall into an informational, educational and marketing
campaign that can improve your image and even expand your patient base.
It is easy to control the information your patients obtain with a little
planning and use of social media tools. They will enable you to quickly market
yourself and help maintain patient loyalty in a moment of chaos when a product
recall arises. We can use social media to protect our patients and keep your
own brand afloat during a medical device recall.
Do not panic
First, do not panic. Make sure you are aware of the many ways in which
you can inform your patients of a product recall. It is easy to post on your
Facebook page, send a series of Tweets and send a blast email to your patients
informing them of the situation.
Plan ahead how to script the email, Twitter and Facebook messages.
Developing a social media plan to effectively communicate with patients is half
the battle. It is also important to plan and discuss steps and solutions you
are willing to offer to help those patients who are affected.
Plan on how your staff would answer questions over the phone and via
email. The office should be able to address questions and provide sources of
information that include signs and symptoms of any complication. This also
gives your office the opportunity to let the patients know you are comfortable
taking care of any medical complication. Patients with complications should be
directed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for adverse effect
MedWatch is the FDAs voluntary reporting program. You may submit
reports to MedWatch one of four ways: online at
http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/; by telephone
at (800) FDA-1088; by fax at (800) FDA-0178; or by mail to MedWatch, Food and
Drug Administration, HF-2, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857.
Identify affected patients
Identify patients by using your electronic health records database and
act responsibly. Patients affected by a recall should be informed by your
office; after all, you are the one who prescribed the medical device. This also
gives you the opportunity to show you care.
You can also obtain a list of patients from your vendor if they list the
last name as part of the invoice. How your office handles these situations
could help imprint trust in your patients.
Obtain information online
Remember that information is easily available online. It is important
that you provide all information available about a product recall in an
educational manner, including a link to the FDA or the manufacturer website for
more information on the recall.
Establish yourself as the authority
Become the informative and authoritative voice in command before your
patients will be left to make their own determinations. Educating the staff
will be crucial in achieving a level of patient comfort while conveying your
offices ability to handle the situation.
If done correctly, you can even use your offices social media
campaigns to further enable your patients to disseminate your message to
Advice in practice
During recent recalls, our office decided to take a proactive and
aggressive role, which helped us control the chaos and become the expert in the
message. Our patients were alerted by email blast, and many were informed via
phone conversations. We directed them to the website to verify the products,
and those who identified the recalled product quickly contacted the office.
Steps were taken to have them evaluated to assure the eye was safe and they
were fit into another product.
Ultimately, we were in control of the situation and drove a caring
message. Most patients were surprised and thankful that we were able to locate
them. We quickly explained that, as with any other medical device, contact
lenses are regulated by the FDA and could be a potential threat to their
As prescribers and providers of medical devices it is our responsibility
to promote accurate information in a professional manner. Social media tools
and electronic health records provide a means for us to be able to better care
for our patients by providing information about a recall. This is important,
especially when the implication is ocular damage.
- Agustin L. Gonzalez, OD, is in private practice in Dallas and serves
as adjunct faculty at InterAmerican University. He can be reached at