While social media has become an integral element of nearly every industry, there’s one area where it’s been slower to make inroads: medicine.
There are several reasons for this, with patient privacy perhaps being the most fundamental. While consumers have gotten used to contacting brands publicly and directly on social media to air their grievances, most people would feel pretty hesitant about doing the same with their doctor. And that’s not even to mention HIPAA concerns.
But while doctors do have to maintain a bit more distance on social media than professionals in other industries, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a useful tool for them to market their practices.
One young aesthetics doctor in the U.K., the Libyan-born Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar, has embraced social media wholeheartedly as a way to connect with his patients and further his philosophy of patient-centered care.
El Muntasar began his medical career in clinical research, focusing on patient safety. After spending some time as a doctor in a hospital setting and exploring plastic surgery, that interest in safety led him to focus on alternative, non-surgical methods of reaching patients’ aesthetic goals—methods that required less downtime and far less risk to the patient.
Today, he runs an aesthetic medical clinic, Dr. Ahmed Aesthetics, with three locations throughout the U.K. and maintains a list of high-profile clientele.
One of the most important ways he’s grown his practice is through Instagram—he’s found that it’s not only been an effective way to market his practice, but connect with his patients as well.
Here’s what Dr. El Muntasar had to say about how social media fits into a medical practice.
Why do you think doctors should be on social media?
Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar: I think social media is a great way for doctors and patients to connect—to move away from that stereotype of doctors being an authoritative figure that lacks personality and is distant from their patients. I think it helps the doctor-patient relationship as well.
How does incorporating social media into your practice go along with your philosophy of patient-centered care?
Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar: I think my use of social media and my philosophy go hand-in-hand, because it allows you to establish that relationship with your patient before you even meet them in the real world. You already have a connection with that person. So it’s a lot easier for them to open up to you, and you can then give them the kind of personalized care that could take months or even years to establish otherwise.
What are a few limitations of social media that doctors should be aware of?
Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar: Doctors always need to know the limits in the sense of maintaining patient confidentiality, and maintaining the Hippocratic oath—doing no harm and really trying to put the patients at the forefront of what we do.
You don’t want a doctor who thinks that they’re a celebrity now because of social media, and forgets that the main person here is not them. It’s always the patient.
Your warmth and personality are one of your major differentiators. How does social media help you convey this aspect of working with you? Why do you think having this kind of energy is important for doctors?
Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar: Platforms like Instagram stories, for example, are such a great way of conveying your personality. It helps bring personability and warmth to your audience and to your patients, because it allows that direct connection to them.
I think that’s obviously very, very important because it helps you establish a connection with your patient. Conveying that positivity and the energy to them can really help them get to know you. So I think it’s just a nice way of spreading positivity as well.
As the owner of your own clinic, you’ve got lots of tasks that you’re juggling— how do you find time to stay active on social media?
Dr. Ahmed El Muntasar: I think it is difficult sometimes to have the time to do everything, but when there’s a will, there’s a way. Good organizational skills and managerial skills, and never being afraid to delegate tasks to other people, are all very important.
But at the same time you always need to keep an active role in your social media and what you’re putting out there. There are so many clinics where the practitioners give their social media to someone else to manage it completely. And then they kind of lose touch with their audience, which is no good.
Originally published on Forbes.com