Vicki Chan, MD, shares pearls for leveraging the power of social media in health care

Commentary
Video

This Los Angeles-based ophthalmologist and medical creator discusses the role of social media in combating misinformation and building health care practices.

Vicki Chan, MD, sat down with Ophthalmology Times to discuss the role that social media plays in medicine (and ophthalmology, of course), such as in patient education and combating misinformation. Chan also touches upon the innovative ways social media platforms can be used to connect audiences with physicians in this interview with Group Editorial Director Sheryl Stevenson.

Video Transcript:

Editor's note: The below transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Sheryl Stevenson: We are joined today by Dr. Vicki Chan, who is an ophthalmologist based in Los Angeles, and who also has a very huge passion for social media advocacy, when it comes to health care and especially ophthalmology. And I'm sure many of our audience members have seen her videos on TikTok and Instagram. And so we'd love to just chat a little bit about social media and its role. What are some of the innovative ways that you have used social media to educate, advocate, or engage with your audience?

Vicki Chan, MD: I feel like when I got started with social media, I would say, I got started maybe like a decade ago...really got involved with it, maybe 4 or 5 years ago. I felt like social media was the innovation. I mean, just using it. There weren't many doctors on there at the time. And using that platform and using the trends and the audios, I feel like was the innovation. And I think it got a lot of attention. Just being on those platforms and doing those things. And it's been a lot of fun. It's gotten a lot of attention, gets a lot of views. And I really felt like it was a powerful tool to get the word out on what people I think typically find boring, like health care, educational information...when you put it to music or if you put it to a dance or a trend and suddenly people want to watch. It's been really effective.

Stevenson: Getting the word out, too, regarding any misinformation about health care or anything in general like that I'm sure can be a double-edged sword getting that information out there. How do you address and combat some of those issues on your platforms?

Chan: You're right. I feel like my platform really took off around COVID because there was a lot of misinformation swirling around that time and really combating those. I think that's where a lot of my views came from and how my platform really grew during that time. What I have found, there is so much misinformation out there, not just about COVID, just about so many health care issues. And whenever I talked with my friends, it's like whack-a-mole. I mean, you cannot believe. And I think people understand this. In science there is—and I don't want to say one right way, but like there's a few right ways of doing things and a million wrong, misinformed ways. So if you try to go and combat the misinformation, it's like whack-a-mole. You whack one and another one pops up, and you whack another one and another and you just can't. What I have found is the best way to combat misinformation is to lead with the proper information. If you can put out good information, quality information, evidence-based information...you put that out there that will hopefully counteract the misinformation because it's just too hard. There's just so much out there. You will burn yourself out if you're trying to combat each and every one piece of information one at a time. It's impossible.

Stevenson: My next question kind of piggybacks off that topic, too. How do you think social media can be leveraged to help promote mental health and well-being, both for health care professionals and the general public?

Chan: With mental health, I think part of the stigma comes from us not talking about it enough. When something is more commonplace, when people are talking about it, when it's out in the open, there's less stigma around it. I've seen so many amazing creators who really focus on mental health. And just talking more about it and putting it out there letting people know that they're not alone. I think that that's a big first step.

Stevenson: What trends do you foresee for the future of social media in medicine, or how do you see it evolving in future years?

Chan: You kind of see it already. I joke a little bit. I feel like physicians are always kind of on the tail end of trends and things. I remember a time where I'm old enough, like yellow pages, and then when the internet started, I think doctors were a little bit slow about starting websites. I don't even remember this. Websites just weren't a thing.

And then same thing with social media. I feel like doctors were a little slow. I think we're starting more. I see more and more young doctors, people on social media, promoting their practices, talking and sharing information. And I think that's going to be the trend. So the yellow pages and then you've got to like internet website, and now social media is really becoming a powerful tool to educate and advertise and market and get your name out there. And that's just the way it's gonna go. I think it's gonna become the new website. So people aren't really searching your websites anymore. They're searching your social media. Definitely not yellow pages, that's long gone. I think that's just the way it's going to be that you're going to see more and more doctors and professionals on social media using it as everyday marketing advertising tools.

Stevenson: Sure. And could you break it down what advice would you have for medical students, residents, and younger ophthalmologists as they enter their careers to leverage social media?

Chan: Don't be afraid of it. I do think it's the wave. I think more and more people are finding their information and their doctors and searching on social media. Again, it was yellow pages, and then websites, and then Yelp. When you're going on these and then social media. That's where you're searching for information about medicine and doctors and a lot of professionals that you're looking for now. I was just looking up 'shoe repair' and you're looking on Instagram for that. You know what I'm saying. That's just what the way it's going. I really would encourage young doctors, especially if you have a private practice or you're trying to build a name for yourself, build a brand, really don't be afraid of social media. It is going to be or it is probably the most powerful tool right now that you can leverage.

As far as young doctors and residents, I see a lot of them on social media, and they're doing an amazing job. I guess my only caveat would be is: 'Yes, it's the wave of the future but still be careful about what you put out there.' A lot of the program directors are still kind of on the old wave like I am, and they might be a little bit wary of it. Just be careful about what you put out there because people are watching. And, unfortunately, some of us older folk are more judgy. And so I would be aware of that. But yeah, I mean, social media is, it's here to stay, and we better get used to it.

Stevenson: Any other key takeaways for our audience in general about social media as they move forward in their careers? Any other pearls for them?

Chan: I think social media...I tell people just to have fun with it. I think that's the most effective. I get questions all the time, like what should I do, how should I do this...I think the most important thing is to have fun with it. While I do think social media is a powerful tool and we just did a whole thing about how I think social media is amazing.

If you don't love it, if this is not for you. I mean, that's fine. There are other ways of getting your name out there, like blogging or podcasting or building your website. There are other ways of getting your name out there. Social media is just one tool, a powerful one, in my opinion.

If you're going to use it, just make sure you have fun with it. Everyone always says be authentic. That's really one way. If people are on social media get to know you, that's part of the reason why people like it. Because it's one thing to look at a website or reviews about a doctor and another thing to watch videos about them explaining something. You really get a sense of what that doctor is going to speak and how they're going to treat you and how they're gonna explain things and practice medicine and so you want to be authentic and have fun and really embrace it. Like I said, it's very powerful.

Stevenson: Absolutely, we feel your passion coming through this screen. Thank you so much for your time today, Dr. Chan. We really appreciate it.

Chan: Thank you for having me.

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