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Should Your Doc Be on TikTok?

Discussion of Medical Professionals on Social Media After Pediatrician Threatened for TikTok Video

Social media now provides important and breaking news and information. It’s not just used for entertainment or networking anymore.

In fact, research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research says nearly 90 percent of older adults, or Baby Boomers, have used social media to seek and share information or support about a medical condition.

This trend begs the question, should doctors and nurses — typically revered for their steadfast counsel and expertise — have a presence in these sometimes tricky online spaces? Can a misconstrued comment in a post hinder their credibility?

Risks of Emerging Platforms

Doctors have been using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram for years mostly to share educational information or tips on a health topic or highlight a patient’s success story.

The rise of TikTok to the social media mix, where humorous musical videos and memes are used to share information, offers a new outlet for doctors. Or so thought Ohio pediatrician Dr. Nicole Baldwin when she posted a music video on TikTok describing the benefits of vaccines (information that is on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website).

The anti-vaccine community attacked Dr. Baldwin on TikTok and across other social media platforms. The scare tactics weren’t subtle. In fact, one commenter on her video wrote, “Dead doctors don’t lie.” In an attempt to sabotage the doctor’s ratings, the harassment continued on Yelp and Google Review. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that people even started calling Dr. Baldwin’s practice and harassing the staff.

Dr. Baldwin wasn’t new to social media when she made the TikTok video, she regularly posts health information on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and also manages a health blog. And her objective was admirable — TikTok targets a different demographic than she was already reaching through her other social channels.

Yet, the backlash from her TikTok begs the question, ‘Should physicians avoid TikTok’? This answer is…maybe.

Back to Basics

Before creating that fun or informative post, do your homework and ask yourself these important questions:

  1. What is your goal in posting to the social media platform?

  2. Does the platform meet your audience goals?

  3. How is your topic communicated on the platform?

There is an upside to using social media, including:

  • Being able to reach and educate young people on an important health issue, such as vaping or sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Offering helpful information to the community about local health issues, for example, the risks or symptoms of a certain illness or virus going around.

  • Recruiting for clinical studies and trials.

  • Highlighting physician or practice news, and sharing patient case histories to inspire others (only with the patient’s express consent).

  • Providing a way for patients to give positive reviews and ratings for the doctor or group.

Dr. Baldwin’s case was severe and unfortunate and leaves good reason for medical professionals to focus more on “tested” social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But, even these require some “rule following”.

Final Tips to Effectively Control Messaging:

  1. Make sure there is distance between their personal and professional social media accounts and that they are not managing both themselves.

  2. Always have a trusted person, team, or second set of eyes review something before hitting post, share, or like!

  3. Schedule and discuss posts ahead of time to avoid spontaneous commentary that is not well-considered or voicing the thoughts and opinions of the entire practice.

  4. Stay up-to-date on changes to HIPAA laws and regulations and never share a patient’s name, photo, or information without their written permission.

  5. Follow all U.S. Food & Drug Administration/FDA rules and regulations if ever mentioning any prescription drugs and medications.

  6. Designate someone to regularly review and swiftly address any negative comments or reviews that appear on your physician or practice pages.

MedVoicePR can help you develop a custom and strategic social media strategy to best showcase your medical practice. Contact us for more information!


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