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The AAOS offers members and patients multiple ways to be involved with social media.
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AAOS Now

Published 11/1/2015
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Alan S. Hilibrand, MD

The Value of Social Media for Orthopaedic Surgeons

AAOS offers a wide array of consumer content on bone and joint issues

Today, more physicians are embracing (or considering) social media as a way to promote their practices and expertise, to drive traffic to their practice websites, and to stay connected with friends, family, colleagues, and patients. 

"Social media isn't going away," said Basil R. Besh, MD, who moderated the symposium, "Role of Social Media in Orthopaedic Practice," during the AAOS Fall Meeting last month. "It's an incredibly powerful tool that physicians can use to directly engage with patients and the public to enhance their brands, images, and reputations."

A June 2014 study by MedData Group found that physicians who use social media do so primarily for personal use (60 percent), to keep up with healthcare news (40 percent), to engage in discussions with their peers (33 percent), and to market their practices (20 percent). 

However, as patients turn more frequently to social media to find and share health information, the need for physicians to engage increases. According to an AdWeek infographic, more than 40 percent of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health, with 18- to 24-year-olds more than twice as likely as 45- to 54-year- olds to use social media for health-related discussions.

Although the social media landscape is constantly evolving and expanding, the following social media tools—available online and through smartphone apps—are popular with consumers:

  • Twitter (twitter.com), allows registered users to send messages, including website links and photos, to other registered users—patients, physicians, researchers, and/or members of the community—who choose to follow the individual's postings or "tweets." Twitter posts are currently limited to 140 characters, but this is expected to increase in the near future. Users can follow conversations by adding hashtags (#) and a topic to their posts, such as #safesports, which links them to discussions on similar topics.
  • Facebook (Facebook.com) allows registered organizations to establish a free "Fan Page" to post information and photographs. Through a fan page, the public can view information linked to a practice website, newsletter, or other information. Fan-page followers can read postings, post comments, and ask questions. Messages should be concise and can include photos and graphics.
  • YouTube (youtube.com) allows registered users to post videos of a presentation, interview, health message, or public service announcement.
  • Instagram (Instagram.com) allows users to share images and short, 15-second videos. A link to the practice website can be added on an Instagram page.

The value of Twitter
Ronald A. Navarro, MD,
who spoke on "The Value of Twitter in Orthopaedic Practice" at the symposium, acknowledged that social media can seem "daunting" at first.

Dr. Navarro compared Twitter to "a radio with millions of channels. When I first turn on the radio, I think I have to listen to all the channels." He suggested that orthopaedists only follow healthcare and other sites of particular interest to them. Retweeting (forwarding someone else's tweet) or participating in large discussions on a specific topic (using a hashtag and topic name) can result in a post's reaching a much broader audience.

In general, Dr. Navarro advocated that orthopaedic practices use social media for the following reasons:

  • differentiate the practice locally
  • advertise the practice widely
  • comment on sports injuries
  • reach millennials who are more likely to get their health care and other information via social media
  • educate the public on bone and joint conditions and treatments
  • promote overall wellness
  • promote and highlight personal and other orthopaedic research to colleagues and patients
  • advocate for legislation and policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels that advance the practice of orthopaedics and patient care
  • promote bone and joint health news from AAOS

Ideally, any social media account should be regularly and thoughtfully maintained, said Dr. Navarro. It's a good way to find out what patients are saying about an orthopaedic surgeon and his or her practice. Social media can also reveal what other organizations and institutions—healthcare reporters, major news outlets, and the local hospital, for example—are talking about and sharing.

However, orthopaedists should exercise caution in what they post, said Dr. Navarro. "When you say something to someone in a private environment, you may offend one to 10 people, but an insensitive tweet can be heard around the world," he warned.

What to say
The other challenge is finding regular sources of information to share or post, to continually engage a social media audience, and to establish the practice as a credible source of new information.

Fortunately, the Academy offers numerous resources to help AAOS members deliver frequent, new content with a consumer/patient focus, including the following:

  • The Academy's Facebook and Twitter pages (Facebook.org/AAOS1, Twitter.com/AAOS1, and Twitter.com/AAOSAdvocacy)—The Academy regularly posts information on orthopaedic trends, breakthroughs, injury prevention tips, and other musculoskeletal news on its primary Facebook and Twitter pages. Simply retweet or share Academy posts to provide your followers with vital healthcare information. The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons' (AAOS) Advocacy account promotes the value of orthopaedic care and provides updates on legislative and regulatory issues related to orthopaedics. Although primarily directed to orthopaedic surgeons rather than the public, the AAOS Now Twitter account (Twitter.com/AAOSNow) regularly draws attention to studies and news that may interest patients, legislators, and the media.
  • ANationinMotion.org provides inspirational patient stories and orthopaedic surgeon tips on maintaining bone and joint health, avoiding injuries, treating musculoskeletal conditions, and navigating recovery. Members who submit an "Ortho-pinion" or "Surgeon Bio" for A Nation in Motion® can link directly to their article, and post it on social media.
  • Orthoinfo.org has patient information on hundreds of orthopaedic diseases and conditions.
  • DecidetoDrive.org offers an array of distracted driving resources, from facts and stats to a "Wreck-less Checklist," videos, and downloadable content.
  • The Academy's YouTube channel offers more than 140 short videos, including public service announcements and interviews on injury prevention, obesity, and other patient health topics.
  • Newsroom.aaos.org offers images and links to bone and joint health news, stats, facts and images.

Need more help?
For more information on social media in orthopaedics, contact the AAOS public relations department. Drs. Besh and Navarro or Thomas S. Muzzonigro, MD, another of the presenters at the Fall Meeting, are also willing to answer questions. The slides and presentations from the AAOS Fall Meeting symposia will be available later this month at aaos.org

Alan S. Hilibrand, MD, chairs the AAOS Communications Cabinet.

Additional Information: