May 16, 2013
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Half of plastic surgeons used social media in practice

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Fifty percent of plastic surgeons reported using social media in their professional practice, according to recent study results.

“Social media platforms represent a dynamic and powerful tool to educate, engage, market to and directly communicate with patients and professional colleagues,” researcher Reza Jarrahy, MD, associate clinical professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said in a press release. “However, for plastic surgeons, the potential benefits associated with using this tool must be balanced against its potential pitfalls.”

Reza Jarrahy, MD 

Reza Jarrahy

Researchers sent an anonymous, 26-question email survey to 5,138 members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). Answers were analyzed for prevalent patterns of social media implementation. Five hundred ASPS members (9.7% response rate) completed the survey, with 40.2% of respondents being aged older than 55 years and 38.1% aged 45 to 55 years. Forty-six percent reported more than 20 years of clinical experience; 10% had been in practice fewer than 6 years.

About half (50.4%) of respondents reported using social media in their practice. Facebook was used most often, followed by LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

The primary response for using social media in practice was that it was “inevitable” (56.7%), followed by it being an effective marketing/advertising tool (52.1%), providing a patient-education forum (49%) and improving networking with peers and colleagues (27.8%). Reasons for not using social media included maintaining a sense of professionalism (54.1%), preserving patient confidentiality (48.8%) and becoming too accessible (45.9%).

Social media was more likely to be used by surgeons who primarily practiced aesthetic surgery. A majority of respondents (64.6%) reported that it had no effect on their practice, while 33.8% reported a positive impact and 1.5% reported a negative effect.

“There is a definite interest among those surveyed in developing best practice standards and oversight to ensure ethical use of social media platforms throughout the plastic surgery community,” the researchers concluded.