To Snap or Not to Snap: The Pros and Cons of Snapchat in the OR

The introduction of social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram have done a lot for the field of plastic surgery. From celebrities inspiring younger people to get everything from butt-lifts to “designer nipples” to users who just want to look better in selfies, sharing images with followers has inspired people to take a closer look at themselves, and to make what they see look better.

But that’s not the only way these sites are putting a spotlight on plastic surgery. Plastic surgeons themselves are using social media to promote their practices and their work. From advertising sales to before and after shots, social media has become an innovative tool for surgeons to market their skills. But a new trend in some practices is raising some eyebrows – and causing some big problems.

It started recently when the case of “The Dancing Doctor” made headlines around the country. An Atlanta, Georgia, doctor came under fire for taking videos of herself singing and dancing while operating on a patient – and then posting those videos to social media. Though the doctor says the patients consented to be filmed and have their videos shared on social media, several patients have filed malpractice suits against her, and her license was recently suspended by the Georgia Medical Board.

Dr. Bruce Chau is a plastic surgeon based in Berkeley, Michigan. He says videos and social media posts from the operating room aren’t all bad – within reason

“Using social media to market yourself isn’t a bad idea at all. What’s problematic is the unprofessional behavior being caught on some of these videos,” says Chau.

That unprofessional behavior includes singing, dancing (and using nurses as backup dancers) and, in one recent case, using the patient’s own phone to snap photos during the procedure.

“There has to be a line somewhere about what is appropriate and what is not,” Chau says. “Just because the patient has consented to being filmed doesn’t give the doctor carte blanche to make rap videos while they operate. The patient is doing the doctor a favor by allowing him or her to share something extremely personal with the world. The doctor owes it to the patient to be respectful.”

So, what should a doctor be sharing during a plastic surgery procedure?

“I would keep it strictly professional and informative,” says Chau. “An explanation of what procedure is being performed, and what the patient can expect. No embarrassing images of the patient, no personal information.”

As for whether a doctor should have fun on their social media channel, Chau says that’s just fine – but not in the OR.

“I would leave the singing and dancing to pre- or post-op, before the patient arrives or after the patient is in recovery. Or when you have no patients at all and have time to be silly,” he says. “That way you can still show your personality and attract new patients without endangering the patients who have already entrusted you with their lives. They should be the doctor’s priority.”