Be a social whiz

February 25, 2019
Social media is a prime opportunity to efficiently and effectively message the importance of regular, comprehensive eye exams and the optometric services you furnish. Learn the do’s and don’t’s of social media.
Social Media

Proper social media etiquette is a necessary skill set for the 21st-century practice. More than two-thirds of American adults use social media regularly—platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter—while nearly three quarters go online multiple times daily, per the Pew Research Center.

Moreover, a report from PwCs' Health Research Institute found 41% of respondents would choose a specific health facility or doctor based on information they found via social media.

Clearly, social media is a prime opportunity to efficiently and e­ffectively message the importance of regular, comprehensive eye exams and the optometric services you furnish. But that level of engagement comes with a significant downside should practices commit one of several social media faux pas unique to health care providers.

"Optometrists need to be aware of how to uphold the same professional and ethical standards in their social media participation as they do in the rest of their practice," notes James Paramore, O.D., a past chair of the AOA Ethics and Values Committee (EVC). "Failing to do so could hurt patients and possibly harm optometric careers."

To help preserve the doctor-patient relationship, maintain patient privacy and ensure security of information, the EVC developed social media recommendations that could help doctors of optometry in their professional and personal lives. Follow these do's and don'ts for social media that could help broaden your practice's engagement with patients and the public.

The do's

Do share professional photos. For all that time spent on social media, over 80% of people skim online content and many have attention spans of only several seconds, per a WebDAM report. Therefore, images can help cut through the clutter. In fact, posts with images produce 650% higher engagement than posts with text only. Consider pictures with staff­ fitting new glasses, a happy patient and practice events or milestones, or unique in-store displays or patient incentives, but always be sure to obtain patient/guardian consent before posting.

Do participate in social trends or observances. Whether it's National Nut Day or Save Your Vision Month, there are occasional health observances or even social trends throughout the year that optometric practices can leverage to increase their engagement. Consider accessing AOA public education and campaign materials to choose from a menu of resources that practices can modify and incorporate into their social media outreach. These public education resources range from pediatric eye and vision care for the back-to-school season to healthy contact lens wear and care.

The don'ts

Don't share patient information. It's not only unethical but also illegal to post patient information. Patient con­fidentiality and privacy should be protected always, and any breaches in con­fidentiality could be in violation of federal privacy laws, such as HIPAA. While doctors may discuss their experiences, they should never provide any information, such as names, code names or pictures that could be used to identify a patient. Always receive expressed patient/guardian consent and note it if sharing a picture on social media, as described above.

Don't address personal medical questions. Although it's a great idea to participate in health observances to boost awareness of conditions and your optometric services, doctors may receive personal medical questions via social media. The EVC recommends against responding directly to such questions and suggests referring questions to their primary care provider. Ocular health care questions from patients should be handled through an office visit, phone consultation or encrypted email exchange, the EVC states.

"Optometrists have acknowledged that professional standards guide the traditional optometrist-patient relationship in face-to-face interactions," says Morris Berman, O.D., a past chair of the EVC. "The online relationship is no different."

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