The rise of dental social media influencers
Jo-Anne Taylor explores the rise of dental influencers and the issues that need to be considered when producing content for social media.
An increasing number of dental professionals are using social media platforms to expand their professional presence online. For example, to advertise their services and to form professional networks with other clinicians.
This has led, in recent years, to a rise in dental ‘influencers’. Dental influencers produce a wide range of content across Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook. Some use their social media channels to explore issues related to being a dental professional. This encourages others into the profession. It also informs and educates the general public on various health topics. Consequently, many have secured high-profile dental, health, fitness and lifestyle deals to become brand ambassadors or to participate in brand events and webinars.
The benefits of dental influencers to the profession
Dental influencers and the dental content produced on social media have the potential to be an invaluable method of raising awareness of oral health campaigns/conditions. They can connect the public with health education from those who have the most appropriate knowledge to give it.
Moreover, if done well, it can enhance the image of the profession. This can make it more accessible and encouraging for people to engage with dental professionals.
Without input from qualified dental professionals, health misinformation could go unchallenged on social media. It is important that the dental profession should have some presence in these spheres. However, it’s important to exercise caution if asked for specific advice by an individual, as doing so is likely to establish a duty of care and could allow a patient to pursue a clinical negligence claim if they were dissatisfied with any advice received.
What does the GDC say?
In its guidance on social media use, the General Dental Council (GDC) states that dental professionals must:
- Maintain and protect patients’ information by not publishing any information that could identify them on social media without their explicit consent
- Maintain appropriate boundaries in the relationships they have with patients and other members of the dental team
- Comply with any internet policy set out by their employer.
The GDC also states that the responsibilities of dental professionals do not change because communication is via social media. Indeed, as a dental professional: ‘You have a responsibility to behave professionally both online and offline. Your professional responsibilities, such as patient confidentiality and professional courtesy, are still fundamental when you use social media.’
Considerations when engaging with social media
It is important that dental professionals consider the content they produce and share on social media channels. For example, consider how any comments you make either at an event or on social media may be perceived by colleagues, patients or the general public.
In some instances, it may be tempting to relay on anecdotes from your clinical practice to illustrate a point. However, it is important not to discuss individual patients – living or dead. Posting details of a clinical case, however heavily anonymised, without patient consent could be a breach of confidentiality – as could sharing a photograph of a patient’s condition. It might be possible for someone to identify a patient even when discussing a case anonymously.
You must clearly define an advertisement at the start of the post, commonly with the hashtag #AD, or similar.
The Advertising Standards Authority also states: ‘If a brand gives an influencer a payment, free item, or other “perk”, any resulting posts referencing the brand or their products become subject to consumer protection law, enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and others, such as Trading Standards.’
Additionally, it is imperative that social media influencers are upfront and honest regarding any payment they receive as a result of a brand event or any social media activity undertaken.
Finally, ensure that you have appropriate indemnity in place for any work done in your capacity as a dental professional. It may be advisable to contact your dental defence organisation.
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