BENEFITS AND DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON DENTAL PRACTICE
This is an abridged version of my presentation as a guest speaker at the just concluded Nigerian Dental Association (NDA) 50th Annual General Meeting.
The topic of this lecture says: “Benefits and Dangers of Social Media on Dental Practice” I would like to start my lecture by defining the terms in the topic in the context of this presentation.
Social Media: Are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression by means of virtual communities and networks. Social media is a catch-all term for a variety of internet websites and applications that allow users to create content and interact with each other. This interaction can take many forms, but some common types include: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, Viber, WeChat, Weibo, WhatsApp, Wikia, YouTube etc. These social media websites have more than 1billion registered users.
Dentistry is a branch of medicine that consists of the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, commonly in the dentition but also the oral mucosa, and of adjacent and related structures and tissues, particularly in the maxillofacial (jaw and facial) area. Although primarily associated with teeth among the general public, however the field of dentistry or dental medicine is not limited to the teeth but includes other aspects of the craniofacial complex including the temporomandibular joint, jaws, and other supporting structures.
Social Media and Dental Practice
The social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn present an extraordinary marketing opportunity for dentists who are looking to promote their independent practices. Potential patients are increasingly embracing social networks as an integral part of their everyday lives. Social media is not an option. It is the best way to create buzz, build your practice’s brand online, target potential patients, and convince the world of what is reliably obtainable in your practice. These tools can be used to improve or enhance professional networking and education, organizational promotion, patient care, patient education, and public health programs. However, they also present potential dangers to patients and health care providers regarding the distribution of poor-quality information, damage to professional image, breaches of patient privacy, violation of personal–professional boundaries, and licensing or legal issues.
Benefits of Social Media on Dental Practice
Social media provides a large collection of educational material, not only from more experienced clinicians, but also from colleagues and fellow trainees. It has become more easily accessible and can be utilised using a variety of media, such as tablets or smartphones. This can help to aid lecturers, teachers, and clinical supervisors in delivering information to trainees.
As a Dental surgeon, you can use the social media to educate the public about oral health education. Considering the fact that dental awareness is still at the lowest ebb in Nigeria, and knowing that so many Nigerians (youths and adults) visit at least one or more of the social media daily, it becomes an effective tool to reduce dental illiteracy in the Nigerian populace, motivate patients, and provide health information to the community.
YouTube, can be extremely beneficial for dental health education for a wider audience. This is supported by a study by Grajales et al., who postulated that video sharing websites will most likely increase for education, as they are available to all learners.
Gaining professional clout
Perhaps one of the most understated benefits of social media networking for dental practitioners is the enhancement of their professional clout. Apart from reaching out to potential patients in the area where the practice is located, the Dentist can also improve connectivity with other professionals in the industry.
Active social media networking can lead a Dentist to new connections that could help promote his or her practice. It could lead to speaking opportunities, conference invitations, finding sponsors for community events, and above all, learning about the latest developments in the field of dentistry around the world.
Facilitates Patients management:
There have been some instances where before patients were referred to my clinic, their clinical photographs were sent through WhatsApp to me. This saves time and gives me the opportunity to read about the case or condition and come up with a provisional diagnosis before arriving at a definitive diagnosis after investigating the patient
Moreover, viewing high quality treatment from senior clinicians on platforms such as YouTube Channels, Instagram and Pinterest can provide inspiration for a newly qualified Dentist in patients’ management. You can learn some dental procedures on these visual media e.g. Gingival graft surgeries, Cosmetic dentistry, biopsies etc.
Facebook and WhatsApp has many groups for dentists, including ‘For Dentists, by Dentists’, groups for individual marketing, as well as pages for associations such as Nigerian Dental Association (NDA), International Association for Oral Pathology (IAOP) British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) etc. In these groups, there are social networking links to other forms of social media, and opportunities to sign up for membership, which allows for networking, links to learning materials, courses and forums. You can use social media to advertise upcoming dental meetings, seminars and conferences. Sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp have allowed maintenance of professional contacts post-graduation, and these can be used for obtaining guidance and research support.
Twitter has also been used at medical conferences to discuss and enhance speaker presentations by posting real-time comments from the audience.
Other forms of social media include the professional networking sites: ResearchGate, LinkedIn. Academia.com, which allow academics to create their own profiles, interact with each other, as well as document the publications they have been involved with. Members can also upload their publications onto the websites database, which can increase accessibility. Evidence has also suggested that, as ResearchGate allows access to numbers of views and downloads to the publisher, it may provide information to the author about the popularity of their publications.
Promotion of Dental Profession:
Dental practitioners cannot afford to ignore the fact that Facebook alone has more than one billion active users worldwide. Social networks offer dentists the potential to reach out to the widest possible number of new patients at the lowest marketing cost per patient. Compared to any other form of advertising and marketing, social networking is the one that requires the least amount of time, effort, and money, and has the potential to achieve the highest results.
Although all over the world, many private dental practitioners are using social media to grow their practice and influence, in Nigeria, we have to tread with caution. The Medical and Dental regulatory body frowns at self-advertisement. According to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Code of Conducts “Doctors are allowed to engage in activities that promote education and health or hospital consciousness of the public on the electronic or print news’ media or on the internet. The Code demands that doctors involved in performing such function should not use such occasions for self-advertisement. They should merely present their materials in such a manner as to only serve the purpose of public enlightenment on the health issue under focus”
Creation of content:
This is creation of materials or ideas that are considered to be interesting, challenging or worthwhile made available on an electronic medium for information and discussion.
Developing and executing a solid content strategy is key to running social media effectively. Posting about information that is relative to your practice while providing insight and information on the various aspects of dental health is a reliable way to be considered by your patients as a knowledge base.
Showcasing New Innovations in Dentistry:
Social media can be used to present something in a way to attract attention, admiration and usage. Recently, I saw an interesting invention on a professional Dental networking site (www.gdpuk.com) – A new automatic toothbrush- the Amabrush which it is claimed takes only 10 seconds to clean patients’ teeth and remove plaque is due to be launched later this year.
Dangers of Social Media on Dental Practice
Consent and Legal Issues:
The General Dental Council (GDC) sets standards for UK dental professionals. Paragraph 4.2.3 of the Standards for the dental team states. “You must not post any information or comments about patients on social networking or blogging sites without the patient’s consent. If you use professional social media to discuss anonymised cases for the purpose of discussing best practice you must be careful that the patient or patients cannot be identified, if not this could lead to loss of confidence, bridge of ethical code of conduct and legal tussle.
Poor Quality of Information
The main limitation of health information found on social media and other online sources is a lack of quality and reliability. Authors of some medical information found on social media sites are often unknown or are identified by limited information. In addition, the medical information may be unreferenced, incomplete, or informal. While evidence-based medicine de-emphasizes circumstantial reports, social media tend to emphasize them, relying on individual patient stories for collective medical knowledge.
Damage to Professional Image
A major risk associated with the use of social media is the posting of unprofessional content that can reflect unfavorably on dental practitioners, dental students, and affiliated institutions. Social media convey information about a person’s personality, values, and priorities, and the first impression generated by this content can be lasting. Perceptions may be based on any of the information featured in a social media profile, such as photos, nicknames, posts, and comments liked or shared, as well as the friends, causes, organizations, games, and media that a person follows.
There are several dangerous situations that can develop when photos or videos are being taken in a dental practice setting. If a patient has a problem with a dental practice and has taken photos or videos, it’s possible the patient could use it out of context and post in on social media to try to prove a point. This could create a huge reputation management problem for the dental practice.
Violation of the Patient–Health care professional Boundary
Health care providers who interact with their patients on social media may be violating the patient–Health care professional boundary even if patients initiate the online communication. A recent study found that patients often extend online “friend” requests to their HCPs on Facebook.
Practice of Self-Medication:
There are some instances where patients follow a management regime for their dental problems from information on social media whose accuracy and source is not verified, thereby complicating their Dentist’s management protocol. All sorts of medications/materials are being advertised daily on social media with the promise to manage all manner of dental related and medical problems. The potency and efficacy of these medications may not have been fully determined and may have serious side effects.
The world has become a global village with the aid of technology and innovations such as social media and the likes of them. The use of social media is key element in educating and promoting oral health, but caution should be applied in whatever we choose to put on such media so that we end up building people’s confidence and sensitizing them on the need to visit the Dentists regularly for their oral health and not promoting Self-medication and becoming dentists themselves. Most importantly, Dentists should conduct themselves professionally in both professional and personal social media environments.
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