AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020


Amplifying the Neurosurgeon’s Message: The Power of Social Media

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The practice of medicine is an art in which communication is paramount for the successful treatment of our patients and the advancement of our field. Over the past few decades, there 

has been a rapid escalation of technological advances that enhance our ability to share critical clinical data and obtain optimal patient outcomes. These include common use of the facsimile machine (1980s), the internet (late 1980s), email (1990s) and smartphones (mid-1990s), to name a few. While the true value of each of these innovations and their impact on the medical profession may not have been immediately realized, these tools have transformed the practice of medicine. While social media may feel like a new trend, the communication and interactions it enables will fundamentally impact medicine and neurosurgery in a similar and significant way.

With the diffuse incorporation of social media throughout the lives of the general public, we are again at a precipice of endless possibilities. The field of neurosurgery has a strong tradition of being early adopters of cutting edge technology to enhance patient care. We should again be pioneers in this paradigm-shifting technology. Communication platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have secured the foundation for the next generation of patient discussions – not just individually, but globally. Facebook alone has 2 billion global, individual, unique users every month. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a prime example of effective social media use. The movement fostered worldwide awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, demonstrating the magnitude of potential to reach patients. Support groups that once required a specific time and physical location to meet, can now discuss key topics virtually, at all hours, from all over the globe.

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While this platform should and can never replace the in-person physician-patient relationship, it can enhance communication with improved flexibility and efficiency. Operative patients who post updates to social media can be visible to surgeons far more rapidly and frequently than scheduled clinic appointments. In addition to the clinical realm, social media can support our roles as educators and researchers by enhancing our interactions with colleagues, providing greater access to specialized information, and engaging the medical community through a larger scope. 

Social media has the power to dramatically improve our outreach by amplifying messages from a small select group in order to reach the larger population. It provides neurosurgery the platform to demonstrate more clearly what a meaningful impact we have on our patients, and effectively communicate the critical role we play in the research, delivery and practice of modern medicine.


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