DocTalk Podcast: Using Social Media as a Physician at AAO 2019

October 14, 2019
Patrick Campbell

Edmund Tsui, MD, social media editor for Ophthalmology, discusses some of the common pitfalls and advantages in the manner some physicians and clinicians navigate social media on this episode of the DocTalk Podcast.

Two decades ago, it would have been hard to imagine an ophthalmologist taking part in a session on social media best practices at a conference or annual meeting, but the rapid integration of social media into everyday lives of patients and physicians has made this a reality.

At the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2019 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, close to 2 dozen presentations centered around social media—including a discussion led by the social media editors of the Ophthalmology, the official AAO journal.

A position created just a year and a half ago, the role is filled by 4 ophthalmologists who have been tasked with improving the journal’s social media presence and platform. While their efforts have contributed to optimizing the brand and increasing the reach of the Academy’s subspecialty journals, many ophthalmologists do not involve themselves in social media or simply do not how. 



For more on how ophthalmologists can use social media effectively to benefit themselves and their practice, MD Magazine® sat down with Edmond Tsui, MD, a uveitis specialist at UCLA and social media editor for the AAO, to get his takes on best practices in social media.

MD Mag: Hello and welcome to this special edition of the DocTalk podcast from the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting in San Francisco. Today, I'm joined by Dr. Tsui, of UCLA who also has a very unique role with the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Tsui, if you wouldn't mind introducing yourself to our listeners and then we can dive into our discussion.

Tsui: Great. Thank you, Pat. I really appreciate the opportunity to be here today to chat about social media and you know, the academy and how our roles of social media editors have helped advance the efforts of the journal. So, my name is Edmund Tsui. I'm an ophthalmologist and uveitis specialist at the Stein Eye Institute at UCLA.

We began our efforts with the social media editors about a year and a half ago in 2018. There are 4 social media editors as part of the Academy's journals Ophthalmology, Ophthalmology Glaucoma, and Ophthalmology Retina. Each one of us distributes certain articles during the week, create tweets, and then in turn, the journal will schedule the tweets for each subspecialty as well too. So, as a result of the social media team's effort, the journal is seeing significant growth in terms of followers readership, and sharing of their research as well, too.

So, we're all really excited to be part of the social media efforts for the Academy, and especially for the journal especially, this is our Academy’s—our field’s—premier journal. So, we're all very lucky to be part of this team.

MD Mag: The advent of social media is something that is relatively new, especially for a lot of clinicians who have been practicing for decades and decades. Apart from the research side, like you just touched on what are some of the advantages of social media available to physicians that they simply did not have access to 10 to 15 years ago?

Tsui: Yeah, that's a great question. And of course, you know, technology has changed dramatically over the past few decades. And social media has a multitude of advantages, offers ophthalmologists and new avenues Engage with audiences in an unprecedented manner allowing for communication basically on a global scale. It's allowed us to increase one's online presence. It helps us meet and engage with our colleagues inside and outside of our specialty. It also helps increase you know, your practices exposure or your institutions exposure, and it helps ophthalmologists or other physicians stay informed with current events helps us disseminate like you said, Our research advances can also help us participate in health policy as well as fundraising initiatives.

MD Mag: All right. And now, I think that begs the question, if a clinician isn't using social media, are they automatically doing themselves a disservice?

Tsui: I don't necessarily think they're doing themselves with the service. But if you think about it, a lot of patients nowadays are going online to Google their physician. They may come across Dr. A and Dr. B. If they see that Dr. A has a significant online presence such as a Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram—you know, a professional presence—they may be more geared towards being a patient of Dr. A as opposed to Dr. B's who may have not have such a prominent online presence. That being said, some may still be connecting with patients in traditional means with the print communication as well as flyers. So there's something to be said as well, too, because not all patients will be using social media.

MD Mag: What are some of the common mistakes that you see?

Tsui: So, that's a really good question. I think with regards to using social media, there are no strict guidelines in terms of how to be efficient or how to really communicate with your audience. You have to kind of think about who your audience is, is it going to be the general public? Is it going to be a scientist in your field? other ophthalmologists? But I think in general, for your professional accounts, you should always use your real name, your real credentials with an actual photograph that identifies you as an ophthalmologist, because these are all public facing accounts. It should be treated as though everyone can see these images.

I think a common mistake is maybe not creating a consistent image across all platforms. For example, if you're using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn, you should be using the same profile picture and the same description so that there's a consistent public-facing image.

So, when patients or other doctors are looking up online, they will be faced with the same doctor that they see and then, of course, there are critical things to be following on social media and these include always being aware of HIPAA—patient privacy always comes first and if you're not sure you should be posting something you should think twice and probably not post that. I see a lot of medical practitioners outside of ophthalmology and inside ophthalmology, posting clinical cases. These should be de-identified, patient consent should be obtained, and you should definitely make sure that these are not identifiable.

You should also think twice before often medical advice on a public forum—what's online is going to be out there permanently. Certain things, with regards to medical advice, should be kept on a private level as well. As you know, these are patients that you may not have seen before, just not your patients and you can identify them as such online. Lastly, I think, you know, as professionals with online social media presence, we should avoid in engaging discussions about controversial topics or getting in heated discussions with other physicians or public online because, you know, these are on public record and for everyone to see

MD Mag: What are some of the most prominent reasons you see why physicians may decide to decline in social media or decline engaging in social media?

Tsui: Yeah, I think that's a great question because, you know, starting on social media is a you know, some for some can be a daunting task. There are a lot of different platforms out there. When I first started, I was questioning should I start in Twitter, Instagram, should I make other Facebook professional accounts. I think one of the biggest challenges may be selecting which one is appropriate and obviously you can pick which platform may be most appropriate for your audience.

Twitter has been used traditionally by a lot of scientists to discuss research. Instagram is obviously an image-based platform. So, visually striking images are posted there. If you have a more kind of image-heavy practice or field, that may be more ideal for you. Even sometimes something such as simple as creating a username can be very daunting. So, I think for those of us starting out in social media, just creating a username with your first name, last name, and then your degree can be the easiest way to get started on social media.

Other questions I've come across are: What can I post? How can I get started? What can my first post be and who should I follow? You know, you should post things that are consistent with your brand. You know your professional presence online, a lot of people do posts research articles,. they post health information from official sources such as the NEI or the Academy's Eye Smart Twitter accounts. You can post a multitude of things, as long as you have a consistent presence online and a consistent image, then that will help develop your brand.

MD Mag: All right, and now, before I let you go, is there anything you wanted to touch on or speak about that I might not have asked you that you felt was important.

Tsui: So as a social media editor for the ophthalmology journal, I think this has been a fantastic opportunity to help spread the research for the ophthalmology journals. I think a lot of other journals are following suit or they've already started having social media editors as well, too. I think, in general, a lot of medical journals should have social media editors. As the younger population continues to grow, that means our future older population will be using social media as well too. I think this will help disseminate the journals, research findings as well as increased the reach to a further worldwide audience.

MD Mag: All right, that was about it and my questions. Thank you for joining us on the DocTalk podcast today.

Tsui: Thank you, Pat. I really appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.

MD Mag: That's it for this edition of the DocTalk podcast. For the latest from the American Academy Ophthalmology annual meeting, be sure to head to MDmag.com. Thank you for listening.


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