What's the first thing you do when a new resume pops up in your Inbox? I check the cover letter for typos and grammatical snafus, and then I go directly to LinkedIn. My next stops are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, in that order. You can learn a lot about a person from what they post on their social platforms. If the pics show the applicant shotgunning a Heineken beer or engaging in other not-quite-professional behaviors, I take a pass. I'm not the only one who vets potential new hires this way, either. College and prep school admissions departments also do social media checks on applicants. Your prospective patients do the same when they are deciding who to see for their upcoming procedure. It's the new normal.
Some physicians are taking back their power by checking out their patients online in advance of their consult. This empowers the physician to determine whether they will be a good fit for their practice before they establish the doctor-patient relationship.
Houston area dermatologist Suneel Chilikuri, MD and Denver plastic surgeon Gregory Buford, MD are two Internet-savvy doctors who take pre-screening patients to a new level.
How Do You Use Social Media Channels to Vet Patients?
Dr. Chilikuri: “Our team uses social media channels to learn more about a prospective patient. We utilize this knowledge to provide a more personalized experience for the patient. For example, we greet all patients by their name as they enter the door to our reception area. Established patients enjoy the personal experience and new patients enjoy this ‘Ritz Carlton' experience. Researching patients on social media channels also allows us to learn about likes and dislikes as they book their first appointment with our office. Again, we are able to connect on a more personal level.”
Dr. Buford: “A few years ago, I became aware of the growing trend for employers to vet potential hires through their social media channels. And so it was a simple extension for me to connect the dots and begin looking at the social media pages of potential clients. The process is quick, easy to perform, and you would be surprised what you actually will find.“
What Traits or Behaviors Do You Consider Red Flags And Why?
Dr. Chilikuri: “If a prospective patient consistently posts risqué photos or inappropriate photos or videos, we are significantly more cautious with our interactions with the patient. We utilize two chaperones in the room for the initial consult and any possible future appointments. If a patient has had multiple surgical revisions or procedures by multiple physicians, I ask the patient the reason for the doctor shopping. If a patient is unhappy or disparages all of their previous doctors, I am cautious about whether I can meet this patient's expectations.”
Dr. Buford: “Establishing rapport with a potential client occurs on many levels. If you have a handle on who that potential client may be and how their display themselves through their social media persona, you actually gain a fair amount of insight as to the type of person you will be working with. If I see all of their pictures displaying drunken weekend nights, then it stands to reason that I may not be dealing with the most compliant person or someone who will be understanding when things don't work out perfectly. “
How Do You Break Up With A Patient You Prefer Not To Treat?
Dr. Chilikuri: “The patient-physician relationship is exactly that—a relationship. While the patient is interviewing me, I am also interviewing the patient. If I do not feel comfortable that I can meet a patient's expectations, I let the patient know. I simply tell the patient that I am unable to meet their needs. “
Dr. Buford: “The first step in working with patients is establishing a relationship. If I find myself not wanting to have a professional relationship with a potential client, I actually find it very easy to say no from the get-go. I rely on my staff and on my own gut feeling as to whether or not I choose to work with someone. If the interaction early on is uncomfortable and forced, then it is simply naive to think this feeling will change after the person undergoes any type of procedure. I have found that it is much easier to be honest and candid if the patient is not someone that I wish to work with. I simply remark (in the most polite and politically-correct manner, of course) that I don't feel that me and my staff will be a good fit and that I would be happy to recommend another practice for their concerns. Patients are usually pretty smart and can read between the lines. When you effectively discharge, they usually get the message.“
Wendy Lewis is President of Wendy Lewis & CO Ltd, a marketing and social media boutique in New York City, and Founder/Editor in Chief of beautyinthebag.com. Reach her at WL@wendylewisco.com.