*This article is brought to you by AAMSSA: The Aesthetic and Anti-Ageing Medicine Society of South Africa*
Find an aesthetic practitioner www.aestheticdoctors.co.za
Nowadays, most people Google their doctor before making an appointment. Other than looking for details in the formal medical directories, it is interesting to follow a medical practitioner on social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook (to name but a few). You can actually tell a lot about a doctor by their social media posts! But did you know that there are strict regulations and ethical guidelines that medical professionals must adhere to when using said platforms? Dr Debbie Norval elaborates…
If you want to check that your doctor is professional and ethical, simply take a look at their social media profile. Should their posts, comments, shares – and all-round general behaviour, really – are not ethical, or at the very least, raises a questionable brow, it can very well cast doubt on their integrity. What’s more, it makes one wonder if this attitude filters through to their clinical work.
“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity”
This beautiful quote by Hippocrates reminds us that the core principles of the medical profession are care, compassion, integrity, respectfulness, trustworthiness, benevolence, and discernment.
These principles and values should also be applied when a doctor uses social media. Considering the extraordinary power of this medium, doctors are expected to hold themselves to a high standard, while conscientiously exercising reasoning and moral judgement – both on and off screen.
“Primum non nocerum. First do no harm”
There are many wonderful advantages of medicine on social media, such as education and health information, improving health outcomes, and motivating patients. For example, social media can be used to share scientific information to counter the pandemic of inaccurate material on the Internet about Covid-19 and vaccines.
With that said, it’s no wonder then that doctors are judged on how and why they use social media. The ethical use of this popular media forum by doctors should impact health care in a positive way – which is to educate and inform – rather than be used for self-promotion, internet fame, and fortune. Don’t be fooled. Just because a doctor reaches celebrity status with thousands of followers and millions of “likes”, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a skilled and safe practitioner.
“Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance.”
One of the main limitations of health information found on social media is the lack of quality and reliability. Everyone – no matter how unqualified and uneducated – has an opinion.
Scientists and doctors have the important responsibility of posting accurate and truthful information. They are expected to keep advice and information based on scientific evidence when communicating on social media.
In a nutshell: follow doctors that post balanced, informative, and truthful evidence.
“To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.”
The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) rules of advertising practice and social media guidelines are very strict for the medical profession. Doctors are not allowed to practice active or passive touting and canvassing, or allowing others to do so on their behalf.
An example of touting is offering “freebies” and specials. Canvassing is when a doctor promotes their services by drawing attention to themselves, using words such as “the best”, “advanced” or “expert”.
Sometimes, doctors use influencers to say how amazing they are. And while this may be okay for non-medical professions, it is frowned upon in medicine.
Suffice to say, it is safer and better for a doctor to say nothing than to post in an unprofessional and unethical manner. So, if your doctor isn’t on social media, that’s fine…it’s probably a good sign as it means they are focusing on what really matters: good medicine!
“Make a habit of two things – to help, or at least, to do no harm.”
It’s a sad truth that some doctors need to pull others down in order to puff themselves up. Indeed, there is an unfortunate trend in the aesthetics industry where a doctor (doctor X) posts photographs of apparent “botched” treatments by their colleague (doctor Y), which is then followed by posts and images of doctor X’s reversal and subsequent heroic correction to doctor Y’s initial patient. Needless to say, this practice is highly unethical and should ring an alarm bell about the integrity of the doctor posting.
And last but not least, is the risk of posting unprofessional content. If a doctor doesn’t practice wisdom and discretion in deciding what content to post online, how can they be capable of exercising sound professional judgment when it comes to medical care?
“Foolish the doctor who despises the knowledge acquired by the ancients.”
The take-home message is this: when searching for an aesthetic doctor online, always check that they are registered with AAMSSA.
AAMSSA doctors not only adhere to strict guidelines but also strive to make Hippocrates proud.
Look for a doctor whose social media posts are professional, and are in line with the principles of medicine that have been held sacred since ancient times.
Written by Dr Debbie Norval
MBBCh (Rand) Dip Pall, Med (UK) M Phil Pall Med, (UCT) Adv Dip Aesthetic Med (FPD)
- Founder and owner at Dr Debbie Norval Aesthetics www.drdebbienorval.com
- President of AAMSSA (Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Society of South Africa) www.aestheticdoctors.co.za
- Actively serves on the Ethics and Professionalism Committee of SAAHSP (South African Association of Health and Skincare Professionals) www.saahsp.com
To report any unsafe practice or if you have any queries please feel free to contact Karen Nel at AAMSSA email@example.com
Find a doctor practising aesthetic medicine in South Africa by visiting www.aestheticdoctors.co.za
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Debbie Norval and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine Spring 2021 Edition (Issue 38 – Sep 2021 to Dec 2021).
A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skincare, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies).
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