Healthcare Blog of Dr. Remo Aguilar

Physician branding on social media

in Social Media by

Do you think it’s ethical for doctors to “advertise” their professional services on social media? How come healthcare institutions do it and we don’t ?
Somebody asked me these questions after my talk on medical professionalism on social media.  Good questions, but very tough ones to answer.  I clarified two things before I answered:

  1. “Advertising” is different from “branding” in social media. The latter is more of establishing perceived value to patients and the public. (You can read more about branding in Marie Ennis O’Connor’s post here)
  2. “Legal” and “ethical” are overlapping concepts but these two are different when taken into context. What’s legal may not always be ethical for everyone else in the healthcare community

Having been on social media for quite sometime, my answer to these have evolved over the years, but I’ll reserved that for another post. What interest me is this;

Healthcare professionals are beginning to ask questions now.

I have this feeling that since social media is pervasive and that everyone else in healthcare industry (including patients) are using it, healthcare professionals are catching up and  are studying its potential in healthcare. The hint? Confusion. Social media for most HCPs is an entirely new environment. What better way to start threading this path than asking questions?

The closest professional industry I can think of that began branding their reputation and services on social media are the academicians. It’s an industry where advertising one’s professional services is also considered taboo among its ranks. Social media is deemed “less scholarly” by most academicians. Yet, some academicians began the slow process of building up perceived value on social media and expanded their reach to the public. Is this good? I don’t know. What I know is that the more conservative healthcare community is no different. Apart from the lack of time and that “less scholarly” attribute, ethical considerations plays a good deal of reason why healthcare professionals is playing catch up to social media healthcare branding.

But,  I’ll be very interested in what you – colleagues and patients, would say about, physician branding on social media. Join us this Saturday June 27, 2014, 9PM Manila time as we discuss the ethics of healthcare professional’s branding on social media:

  • T1: As a physician do you consider physician branding on social media, legal? Ethical?Why?
  • T2. As a patient, would you seek clinic consult with a physician you found on social media?Why or why not?
  • T3. What do you think is the most important value that a physician should establish when branding on social media? Expertise? Patient care? Healthcare information?

Almost all  healthcare stakeholders (patients, healthcare institutions, policy makers) began embracing social media as a tool to improve healthcare. All except healthcare professionals. As closing thoughts what take home message would you give healthcare professionals when they brand their services on social media?

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (

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