Don't get yourself in trouble by failing to think through what you're doing and how it can damage your clinic and your reputation if something goes wrong.
You may have seen something about the recent case of dermatologist Windell Davis-Boutté The “Dancing Doctor” who has been suspended for "negligence" after posting videos of herself dancing and rapping while performing surgeries. The physician used the videos to market her practice, where she was seen rapping and dancing, that it ended up having her patients file lawsuits against her with some of them claiming to be severely injured. (CBS article)
To get real for a second, this was a stupid thing to do for lots of reasons. Anyone who has been around for a while knows that it's not if you get sued, it's when you get sued since your patients have been pretty well conditioned to expect perfect results based on their own criteria.
The result: Dr. Davis-Boutté was sued by 7 of her patients and was forced to agree to a 2.5 year suspension of her medical license.
According to Gutierrez and Johnson (2018), there have been other instances like Davis-Boutté’s where physicians are singing and dancing while doing procedures. It causes immediate alarms to go off for patients, as physicians are expected to be focused exclusively on their care and the procedure.
So what did Dr. Davis-Boutté get so wrong?
- She wasn't focused exclusively on providing the best care: Patients expect perfection from their treatment and if they're unhappy with the outcome in any way they're going to be looking to the doctor for answers. Any indication that the physician wasn't focused exclusively on providing the best care is immediately going to be the peg on which they're able to hang blame.
- She turned her patients into props: No patient really likes to be filmed when they're unconscious on the operating table.
- She made it public: Of course that was the whole idea. These were 'marketing' videos and they were produced and posted online in order to increase visibility for her practice.
While this went completely off the rails from the beginning for Dr. Davis-Boutté, there are some lessons to be learned. Here are a few things Dr. Davis-Boutté could have done to meet her goals without dropping a bomb on her dermatology practice.
- Use patients only for live testimonials: The social proof of happy patients is probably the best general marketing you can use, but they need to be aware of what they're doing and how it's going to be used. I'd suggest that if you're shooting live videos for promotion that you let patients "sign-off" on the final product before you actually release it. Make sure that patients
- It's not about you: Patients want to be treated by a physician who's nonthreatening, caring and personable, and who puts them at ease, but they don't far beyond that because they're focused on themselves. Your efforts need to be focused on them as well.
- Focus on what's actually important: There's only one thing that you're looking to have patients think about you if you're performing cosmetic treatments; that is that you're "the best" at what you do. Marketing campaigns that promote you as being the funniest, hippest, or best looking have no place beyond getting some initial interest. Successful clinics focus on outcomes for their patients and strive to earn new patients primarily by word-of-mouth.
- Think it through: All of this could have been avoided with a few simple "what if" questions were asked
Below are a number of resources around the ethics of marketing physicians and procedures. In some cases it's a little head-in-the-clouds but remember that cosmetic medicine has really caused headaches for the medical ethics community.
Continuous Care. (2018, March 15). Ethics of healthcare marketing for physicians and medical practices. Retrieved from https://www.continuouscare.io/blog/healthcare-marketing-ethics-for-physicians-medical-practices/
Cătoiu, I., Geangu, I. P., & Gârdan, D. A. (2013). Applying Marketing Principles in the Field of Medical Services – An Ethical Challenge? Procedia Economics and Finance, 6, 449-456. doi:10.1016/s2212-5671(13)00162-7
Gandolf, S. (2014, July 22). 7 Dangerous Legal Issues to Avoid in Doctor Advertising. Retrieved from https://www.healthcaresuccess.com/blog/doctor-marketing/dangerous-legal-issues.html
Gutierrez, P. L., & Johnson, D. J. (2018). Can Plastic Surgeons Maintain Professionalism within Social Media? AMA Journal of Ethics, 20(4), 379-383. doi:10.1001/journalofethics.2018.20.4.msoc3-1804
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011, November). Women's Health Care Physicians. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Ethics/Ethical-Ways-for-Physicians-to-Market-a-Practice