Live from the OR: Want to Demystify Cosmetic Surgery? Social Media Can Help

live surgery, instagram, social media

As RealSelf CEO Tom Seery likes to say, most doctors are at one of three stages in their approach to social media. There’s the Crawl stage, which entails basic reputation management, the Walk stage, where doctors freely share their expertise, and the Run stage, in which they embrace the kind of two-way conversation that leads to great word of mouth and more business.

By that reckoning, Jennifer L. Walden, MD, of Austin, Texas, is running a marathon — and sprinting the entire way. For doctors hoping to ramp up their own social “fitness regime,” tagging along is highly recommended.

Two weeks ago, for example, Walden performed a facelift/blepharoplasty/fat grafting procedure with a twist. In addition to letting a local news station film the blepharoplasty and fat grafting, Walden provided live updates for the entire process via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine (Twitter’s video-clip service).

We caught up with Dr. Walden afterwards and asked her to walk us through the process. (MB): What prompted you to undertake this project?

Jennifer Walden (JW): I recently saw a Twitter/Vine/Instagram feed of live brain surgery performed at UCLA and thought it was a brilliant idea. I also like the idea of being a forward thinker, sometimes out of the box, and early adopter of new technology as it relates to my specialty.

MB: How did you approach the issue of patient consent?

JW: I thought about the concept over the weekend and did a little online research, learning how Vine worked, etc. I came to my office on the Tuesday after Memorial Day and called my surgery patient who was booked for the following day. I proposed the idea to her — she is a nurse herself — and she readily agreed to participate.  Of course, she signed a written consent preoperatively for her images and videos to be transmitted via traditional and online media.

MB: What sort of preparation did you do in order to be able to post updates during the procedure?

JW: I had previously notified my student intern that she would be expected to help me Vine/Tweet/Instagram with feeds to Facebook for a facelift/blepharoplasty neck liposuction/autologous fat grafting/chemical peel case to be done the following day. I asked her to research the procedures on YouTube that have been previously uploaded by reputable surgeons whom I knew so she could understand key technical steps and the videography of cosmetic surgery better.

cosmetic surgery, tweet, jennifer walden

MB: What were the logistics of tweeting, taking pictures, etc., during the procedure?

JW: We began the tweets and Vine feeds pre-op on the day of surgery and continued throughout all of the planned procedures until the patient was in the recovery room. 100% of the filming and tweeting was done by my intern and a member of my staff who is particularly good with computers and information technology (both younger than me, of course!); both had the patient’s permission to be there and were in OR attire.

MB: So you weren’t actually posting updates yourself?

JW: My attention and hands remained on the patient the entire time. It wasn’t much different than the feeling of filming of a procedure in the operating room for industry-focused cosmetic surgery symposia, except all we needed was an iPhone and the welcomed absence of a space-consuming production crew, cameras, and booms. The other difference was the immediacy of the information reaching a much wider audience including the lay public via the Internet.

MB: Speaking of reaching the lay public, what role do you see social media playing in that effort?

JW: I think we as a specialty need to embrace social media as an avenue to reach the public for education regarding what we do, how we do it and a means to demystify procedures. Of course, it’s also a no-brainer for sending marketing messages in an inexpensive format. Other specialties and providers do this, including some who are doing cosmetic procedures without proper board certification in the core specialties, and that is something to think about.

MB: And, finally, what sort of response did you get from your experiment and do you think it was worth doing?

cosmetic surgery, tweet

JW: The response was larger than I expected.  Without giving away too many of my secrets, let’s just say I gained Twitter and Facebook followers, and some new patients booked consultations.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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