During the Instructional Course Lecture titled “Social Media and Orthopaedics: Establishing Your Online Reputation,” panelist David N. Garras, MD, FAAOS, discussed the ever-growing importance of social media for orthopaedic surgeons building and maintaining their reputations.


Published 3/8/2024
Cailin Conner

Surgeons Adept at Using Social Media Share Tips to Help Others Build Positive Digital Reputations

At the Instructional Course Lecture (ICL) titled “Social Media and Orthopaedics: Establishing Your Online Reputation,” held during the AAOS 2024 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, panelists delved into the importance of social media and how it can help or hurt an orthopaedic surgeon’s overall reputation. Adam Bitterman, DO, FAAOS, chairman and associate program director of Northwell Health, Huntington Hospital, and assistant professor at the Zucker School of Medicine in Uniondale, New York, moderated the session on behalf of Lance Silverman, MD, FAAOS, foot and ankle specialist at Silverman Orthopaedics in Edina, Minnesota, who provided data for the presentation. Dr. Bitterman was joined by David N. Garras, MD, FAAOS, foot and ankle surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants and associate professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The rise of internet-first medicine
Dr. Bitterman opened with the question: “Why is social media so important now?” The answer, according to the data: “Everything is being Googled.” In a span of more than 6 months in 2022, nearly 60 percent of adults in the United States searched for health information online, and 41.5 percent used the internet to communicate with a physician’s office.

To interact with potential patients, a website is a great start. However, Dr. Bitterman said, We can’t expect to create a website and have hordes of new patients find us. We need to go out and find them.” One way to do that is to create consistent, relevant, topical, and expert-level content.

Social media have expanded immensely in recent years, which can make beginning a social media journey a daunting task. Therefore, one key suggestion is starting a blog. “Blogging allows us to engage in current events. We can provide extra insight into an athlete’s injury or a new medical procedure by creating content around shared activities, interests, and conditions. It allows us to showcase our own expertise and add a dimension to a story that regular outlets can’t. It also acts as a way for us to advertise our services,” Dr. Bitterman said.

Although patient–physician content is important for an online presence, Dr. Bitterman emphasized collaboration with “guest blogs” to reach new, relevant audiences. Finding the right guest blog to work with can pose a challenge, however. “You need to find the right balance of overlap between readers. You have to find an overlap that makes sense,” he stressed.

Dr. Bitterman also touched on the potentially career-breaking importance of patient reviews. “It only takes one online mistake to tank your online presence and to have an angry horde of people you’ve never met flocking to your Yelp page to leave one-star reviews,” he said. When faced with this dilemma, Dr. Bitterman suggested that physicians “respond, empathize, and try to solve the problem. Patients want to feel like they are being listened to, and by putting in the effort to address negative reviews, you’re showcasing you care and building trust, even out of a bad experience.”

Why use social media?
Regarding one’s reputation, as Dr. Bitterman said, “If you build it and you work on it, they will come.” Building a reputation takes constant vigilance to maintain, and social media can become a physician’s tools to help maintain it. “If you’re not in it, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee,” Dr. Bitterman quipped. “This [social media] isn’t a fad that’s going to go away.”

Dr. Bitterman shared his “Five Cs of Social Media”—content, community, connection, collaboration, and consistency. Content should be original and focused on attracting, building, or joining a community of creators with like-minded interests. Consistency is key when it comes to social media. Physicians should “be consistent and constant,” while also being mindful of not posting excessively.

When it comes to interacting on social media, “You have to have a give-and-take relationship,” Dr. Bitterman said. Interactions should have a “bidirectional value,” which builds collegiality. This practice can include educating your followers or learning from those you follow, tagging fellow physicians in posts and being tagged in their future posts, following creators in your community, and gaining followers in return.

Authenticity is key. Dr. Bitterman suggested sharing interests and hobbies with followers to build connections with them. “We’re all personable, and we all have personalities. We want to use that to show your authenticity on the internet.” Moreover, he emphasized avoiding confrontation and respectfully disagreeing with others.

For those who have not started their social media journeys yet, Dr. Bitterman offered a bit of advice. Firstly—whether it is Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly known as Twitter)—pick just one. Physicians new to social media should observe and learn the ropes, adjust their posts and content to their own personality, interact with a community of users who share their interests, build trust, and then expand their horizons.

Picking the right platform
Bringing the ICL to a close, Dr. Garras discussed how to choose the right social media platform to best meet the needs of one’s target audience, as well as how to create engaging content on that platform. Marketing a practice on social media, which Dr. Garras referred to as “new age marketing,” allows physicians to “attract new patients, gather reviews, retain current patients, and have more control over their online reputation.”

According to Dr. Garras, “A healthy social strategy is like a good treatment plan.” Physicians should consider what their end goals are (e.g., attract more patients, collaborate with other creators, discuss difficult cases, etc.) and who their audience is (e.g., older patient population, young athletes, etc.). Next, physicians should take the time to research the “competition.” Surgeons should note what other physicians are doing successfully on social media and look at what currently draws their attention on their own social media accounts.

Not all social media platforms are created equally, Dr. Garras noted, and advertising your practice on one platform will not guarantee that you reach the target audience. Not every social media platform is a good fit or has the audience a surgeon may want to engage with. “If you’re trying to market as a joint surgeon, don’t be on Instagram. You want to be on Facebook, because they [older patient population] are going to find you there a heck of a lot more.”

After selecting the right social media platform, the next step is to create original content. He remarked, “Creating engaging social content can seem daunting and scary at first,” but the best way to get better is to “practice, practice, practice.” Content can be written and/or include photographs, videos, or graphics, but it needs to be informative, timely, and accurate. By capitalizing on current events, physicians can stay relevant and engage with colleagues and followers alike.

Cailin Conner is the associate editor of AAOS Now. She can be reached at cconner@aaos.org.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information Technology Use Among Adults: United States, July–December 2022. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db482.htm. Accessed Feb. 12, 2024.