April 2019


Ophthalmologists tap into social platforms

by Maxine Lipner EyeWorld Senior Contributing Writer

Investigators found more than 10,000 posts from LASIK patients about their experience.
Source: Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, MD


These days, social media use is ubiquitous, and ophthalmology is no exception. In a recent study1, investigators delved into how ophthalmic practitioners and LASIK patients are using this.
Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, MD, and co-investigators set out to determine how doctors, patients, and academic eye centers use social media with regard to ophthalmology. “We specifically wanted to investigate LASIK because it’s a common procedure among social media’s highest users, the 18- to 34-year-old demographic,” she said.

Analyzing LASIK posts

When investigators searched for LASIK, they found more than 10,000 posts. Other ophthalmology-related terms, such as #retinasurgery or #cataractsurgery, had fewer than 1,000 posts. Dr. Al-Mohtaseb attributes this to the nature of LASIK. “People love to share exciting events in their life, and LASIK is a life-changing procedure that everyone wants to talk about,” she said. The idea was to study trends and see what was associated with positive patient experiences to allow for more effective social media engagement with future patients.
Investigators used a social media search engine, looking for the term #lasiksurgery. They analyzed 2,592 Instagram posts from individuals who underwent LASIK between August 2016 and April 2017. Patient use of social media was their primary outcome.
“Our secondary outcomes were social media use among ophthalmologists and academic eye centers,” Dr. Al-Mohtaseb said. “We searched extensively to find personal social media accounts from ophthalmologists identified as the Top 40 Under 40 ophthalmologists from The Ophthalmologist and others who were active in attending conferences.” In addition, investigators used Doximity ratings to find the top 30 academic centers and perused their social media accounts. “Surprisingly, Twitter was much more popular among ophthalmologists and eye centers,” Dr. Al-Mohtaseb said. “We could only find a handful of Instagram accounts for these groups and therefore did not have enough to analyze.”
Investigators then analyzed the patients’ posts based on content. For example, what was being posted, a picture or a video? Were patients focusing on what their eyes looked like or what they were seeing? What postoperative concerns did they have?
For ophthalmologists, investigators characterized their last 40 tweets to see what they were tweeting about on personal accounts, Dr. Al-Mohtaseb said. For academic centers, investigators looked at how they were interacting with their followers.
Investigators determined that 92% of patients using the LASIK hashtag posted photographs. Of these, 88% had a positive tone and 62% referenced the clinic where they were treated, with 44% posting on the day of the procedure. “They also posted about not needing to wear glasses or contacts,” Dr. Al-Mohtaseb said.

Perusing ophthalmologists’ feeds

Ophthalmologists’ personal tweets focused on research conferences 35% of the time, personal topics 25%, and accomplishments of others 21%. Institutions posted content related to their own promotion 22% of the time, physician accomplishments 20%, and research publications 19%.
On Instagram and Twitter feeds, many ophthalmologists have patients on the top of their minds. “Most are sharing successful cases and positive input from patients,” Dr. Al-Mohtaseb said. They also use Twitter to participate in the buzz at ophthalmology conferences.
Dr. Al-Mohtaseb thinks it is possible for ophthalmologists to garner more positive attention based on what they post. “Ophthalmologists can set the tone and shape the types of comments patients make by their level of engagement and interaction on social media,” she said. “Ophthalmologists who are interactive with their potential and past patients are more likely to receive positive comments than those who aren’t.” She suggested encouraging patients to share how they feel about their experience and inviting them to tag your office in the post.
Dr. Al-Mohtaseb recommends ophthalmologists increase engagement with followers, post more photos, and look into hiring a social media liaison due to the time-consuming nature of it. It is also vital to be mindful of patients’ privacy and any associated HIPAA rules. “Also, avoid political, negative, or offensive posts that can push away your target audience,” she said.
Dr. Al-Mohtaseb thinks social media will become of greater importance to ophthalmologists. “With a rapidly changing social media landscape, it will become more important for ophthalmologists to be aware of new social media platforms and trends to effectively connect with past and future clients,” Dr. Al-Mohtaseb concluded.

About the doctor
Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, MD
Assistant professor of ophthalmology
Baylor College of Medicine


1. Clarke C, et al. Social media and ophthalmology: Perspectives of patients and ophthalmologists.
J Med Syst. 2018;42;258.

Financial interests
: Alcon, Bausch + Lomb, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Carl Zeiss Meditec

Contact information
: zaina@bcm.edu

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