You won’t find it in the DSM-5 but you could easy get the idea that some aesthetic professionals have an irrational fear of social media. They get feverish about Facebook; they get twitchy over Twitter, and they eschew any form of online interaction that takes them beyond the confines of their own practice website.
It may not be diagnosable but it can still be hazardous to your (business) health. To avoid that unpleasant outcome, it helps to recognize the potential pitfalls and manage them before they become full-blown problems.
Pitfall #1: A patient sends you a friend request
Between spending more time on social media and wanting 24/7 access to their doctors, it’s more or less inevitable that you’ll receive a friend request from a patient. Needless to say, it can be hard to maintain professional boundaries when people know what your family looks like, what kind of music you listen to and what you did over the weekend.
Prescription: Opt for dual citizenship
According to a Wall Street Journal poll, 7 out of 10 doctors say it’s inappropriate to be Facebook friends with patients. Another approach is to maintain two profiles — a personal, private one and a practice-specific one — and steer patients toward the latter.
Pitfall #2: Responding to online medical inquiries
The more informed aesthetic consumers become, the more likely they are to ask very specific questions about their individual situation. It can be tempting to answer equally specifically in order to stand out from the competition.
Prescription: Inform, don’t diagnose
There’s no reason you can’t share your general experience with the subject at hand but providing a clinical response via social media can be viewed as establishing a doctor/patient relationship with all the responsibilities, and therefore risks, that that entails. The idea is to educate not provide medical advice.
Pitfall #3: Breaching patient confidentiality
Even if you take steps not to identify patients, accidents happen. A staffmember unintentionally discloses PHI; a file name on a jpeg includes a patient’s name, or a photo is used in ways not authorized by the patient. Maintaining patient privacy is — and should be — a very real concern.
Prescription: Understand, explain and get consent
Consent to document and share patient care is not the same as consent to use patient information for marketing purposes. If you intend to pursue the latter, you’ll want to get “commercial consent,” which allows you to use reviews, photos and other patient-specific information for promotional as well as patient-care purposes, including disseminating it via social media.
Pitfall #4: Saying something you’ll later regret
Let’s face it, social media can be a cauldron of emotion, misinformation and personal attacks dished out under the cover of anonymity. You’d have to be an automaton not to be tempted to respond in kind.
Prescription: Just don’t
The reason is two-fold: First and foremost, you’re not responding to one person; you’re responding to everyone who’s listening in and, chances are, you’ll only ignite a larger firestorm. Second, nothing shared on social media ever goes away completely so even if you resolve the immediate issue, it’ll probably come back to haunt you at the most inopportune times.
Now, that’s a scary proposition — and it’s exactly why it’s so important to proactively manage your socmephobia rather than the other way around.