Like many of you, I am a fan of RealSelf. It was created by Tom Seery who is a real thought leader in the world of social media especially as it applies to plastic surgery. This forum provides a very nice platform for patients and doctors to interact, and for patients to interact with other patients. The latter is something that seems to be gaining more steam as patients share their experiences and support one another through the process of surgery.
We have quite a few postings on RealSelf and each day I receive an e-mail with the questions that have been asked of physicians that day. Recently, I read a question and a physician’s response that got me thinking. Let me explain.
The question was from a patient, 6 days out from a breast augmentation surgery, who posted a photo of her breasts, one of which was much larger than the other. She was wondering what might be wrong, and from the photos something was definitely going on.
A physician who responded said that there was definitely a problem, and that she should stop wasting time looking for answers on the internet and call her surgeon immediately. And, I agree completely. Here is the physician’s response:
Don’t ask or accept medical treatment advice from the internet.
Platforms like RealSelf and the internet as a whole are a great places for general medical information. However, you should never accept specific treatment advice from this, and I as a surgeon should never prescribe specific treatments via a public forum. The internet is not your doctor! And, it is very ill-advised for me to recommend specific treatment to a patient who is not mine, that I have not ever seen. Similarly, the physicians who respond via RealSelf are well aware of the type of advice that they should and should not give.
But I am really astounded by the number of patients who will query the internet after surgery to find an answer to the problem they are having. The above is an extreme example but there are many others. Why are these patients not calling their plastic surgeons’ offices?
No one else will know their case, their history, and the specifics of their care better than the surgeon who did their surgery. Never worry about calling or bothering your surgeon or his staff. We would much rather get a call about something that is not a real issue and can be quickly dispensed with, than miss a call about something that is a real problem and needs attention.
Fortunately, most of the physician respondents on RealSelf will start by telling the inquiring patient that they should call their own doctor. Or that they should get in to see their plastic surgeon about their concern. This is always the right answer.
So remember, RealSelf and like platforms, are great places to get general information. But I can assure you that Tom Seery does not want to be your doctor; and does not want RealSelf to be your doctor.
If you are having a problem, call your doctor. End of story.
All the best,
David B. Reath, M.D.Plastic Surgery
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