Is Social Media Destroying Medicine? [Video]

Is Social Media Destroying Medicine? [Video]

650 358 Tom Seery

At our most recent Advisory Board meeting, I talked to a dozen doctors about their take on whether there’s a risk that true experts are being drowned out and diluted by social media influencers, Dr. Google, and the like. I was struck by their largely positive outlook for the future of expertise in their fields of medicine.

Aesthetic doctors view social media, video and the Internet as their virtual podium that allows their insights and points of view to be heard by thousands, if not millions. “There’s a huge opportunity here because we have more access” to channels for communicating directly with consumers and patients, Dr. Johnny Franco told me. “But we need to take leadership.”

While the risk of fakers and posers stealing mindshare is real, the doctors shared a belief that social media introduces transparency, where ultimately the truth comes out with time.

On the whole, doctors see online resources as integral to educating consumers rather than as a source of dumbing down and misinforming the patient. “In plastic surgery, I think [social media] can lead to a better educated, better informed patient,” Dr. Richard Reish told me. Dr. Elizabeth Whitaker concurred: “A lot of people coming online have done a lot of research—[they’ve] done their homework.” (You can watch snippets from all dozen doctors in the video below.)


What I found striking is that these sentiments were shared by many of you in our Hey Seery audience. Here are just a handful of the comments that landed in the Hey Seery inbox.

  • Maggi Lepore of San Jose-based Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Associates said offering quality information on social media tells patients you genuinely care about their education—and helps inoculate patients against bad information elsewhere: “It will give them a basis to question providers who don’t emphasize training and experience,” she wrote.
  • The theme of accepting that social is here to stay, and choosing to participate instead of pushing back against change, was also voiced by Dr. Steven J. Pearlman. “There is no way to combat the trend of…social media stars,” Dr. Pearlman wrote. “Instead of getting despondent, combat them with quality.”
  • The importance of adopting a “patient first” mindset came up several times in my Ad Board conversations. It was also a theme in the Hey Seery inbox: “Putting the patient first should be (or become) the primary expertise of all those who care for patients,” Dr. Alan Levy offered. Dr. Richard Sadove echoed this idea, boiling it down this way: “Take the time to get to know people and demonstrate sincere care and concern to do the right thing.”

I’m biased—I clearly have a dog to hunt in the conversation about the influence of social media and the web. This is also a complex issue, and there’s a lot more surface area to explore.

But the tide is certainly changing from when I began RealSelf and heard quite loudly that posting on the web was professionally risky, too self promotional, and potentially unethical. And I’m seeing more confidence from real-deal medical experts that they can use that very quality of expertise to win in the arena of social media.

Get Seery in your inbox. Sign up for the Hey Seery newsletter at

Tom Seery

Tom Seery is the founder and CEO of RealSelf, the most popular online resource that helps consumers research cosmetic treatments and find the right medical aesthetic provider. Each month RealSelf attracts 10 million unique visitors who view 50 million photos. Another 500,000 people contact doctors and clinics seeking more information or appointments. Integral to RealSelf is a model that showcases the expertise of aesthetic providers. Experts have posted two million answers to questions and routinely upload educational videos, and patient before & after photos. Prior to RealSelf, Tom was a member of the founding team at Expedia, where he conceived a $1.2b private-label travel business, launched the cruise travel line of business, and introduced search marketing long before Google was a household name. Tom sits on the board of ReSurge International, a nonprofit that builds plastic reconstructive surgical capacity in developing countries. He also regularly lectures on innovation and serves on the board of the entrepreneurship programs at the University of Washington. Tom holds an MS from Drexel University, MBA from University of Washington, and BA from Connecticut College. He resides in Seattle with his wife and two highly energetic boys. He is @seery on Twitter or @realself_tom on Instagram, should you wish to connect.

All stories by:Tom Seery