The Next Beat: Expanding the Reach of CV Medicine With Instagram

Social media has become an underlying force in the health care space. From Twitter to TikTok to Instagram, each platform has its own utility for medical professionals.

Aamisha Gupta

Twitter was the initial runner, allowing a space to share a wealth of knowledge. Physicians are able to showcase interesting cases they have encountered, gaining insight from other professionals with respect to different approaches to management. They are able to highlight the latest research or clinical trials within their specialty. For a more creative outlet, medical professionals have now started using TikTok as a means to connect with an audience. Simple concepts in medicine and practice style are combined with music, graphics and dance moves. This channel not only allows for more engagement with different age demographics but also humanizes physicians and makes them more relatable. Lastly, Instagram has recently become increasingly popular within the medical community as it allows for more visual learning of different concepts; incorporates multiple ways to share information with posts, stories and videos; and allows physicians to connect with their audience on a more relatable level with a greater reach.

Background and the Next Beat:

The cardiovascular community has made its presence known on social media, especially with Twitter. Cardiotwitter has allowed cardiologists, surgeons, fellows, residents, and students from all over the world to connect and share information. The utilization of hashtags (#) leads to more engagement on topics within this space by acting as a search tool and organizing topics by category. There is the additive benefit of being able to network amongst cardiologists at all career levels. Although the educational and networking aspects are benefits of Twitter, cardiologists are limited in their scope of how they want to share and display information.

Ambreen Mohamed, MD, FACC

The next beat: Instagram. Instagram has demonstrated rapid growth with a broader reach in age groups.  Based off a study survey done from Jan. 8 – Feb 7. 2019, the percentage of U.S. adults who used social media platforms by age group demonstrated that in comparing Instagram vs. Twitter, for ages 18 – 29 years there was 67% vs. 38% use, respectively; for ages 30 – 49 years there was 47% vs. 26%, respectively; and for ages 50 – 64 years there was 23% vs. 17%, respectively. Therefore, with more use of this platform, the possibilities for cardiovascular medicine to expand its influence seem the natural next step.

In our point of view, Instagram allows for less intimidation when sharing medical information across the field. It places a face to the physician and allows for a more wholistic approach to medicine. Physicians can become creative with different tools on the platform. The multifaceted utility of Instagram allows medical professionals to share more than one dimension of themselves and their careers, giving audiences a more approachable view of physicians.

How to Get Started:

Getting started on Instagram made simple!

First and foremost, you must a create a profile. This step begins with a domain name or Instagram "handle." We suggest using your name, "@drheartmd," or being more creative and incorporating your subspecialty, for example "@cvimager." Next would be to work on your bio, which should be simple and to the point. Things to consider mentioning in your bio would be your area of expertise and where you trained or are currently working. It is also worth mentioning that your opinions are certainly your own and you are not offering medical advice. Your profile picture should be a headshot of you in professional attire, either in a lab coat, scrubs or professional clothing. After you have created your profile, you should think about what you are going to post. This leads to understanding and developing your niche. You should have an idea as to what type pf audience you are trying to engage with and what content you feel will benefit you and your audience the most. Different areas to consider would be medical education, mentorship, inspiration, lifestyle, business or institutional promotion. Understand that there can be overlap in your content and sometimes you may change direction along the way.

How to Maintain and Grow a Following

Once you have an Instagram account and have established your niche, it is important to cultivate and stay true to yourself and the content you produce. In order to grow and maintain a following, one has to be consistent in their posts and social interactions. The Instagram algorithm changes continuously based off your engagement. Your engagement can be through multiple avenues, wherein lies the beauty of Instagram. There is versatility between different features of the platform, including permanent posts to one's page, temporary stories lasting for 24 hours, videos in Instagram television (IGTV), engaging with others in real time (IG Live), and more recently short 15 second clips with Reels. These options allow for the user to be innovative in the message or education they depict and allows for greater reach based off audience and individual preferences.

With regards to reach, one should also ensure that atop of content creation, there is community development by interacting with individual accounts and the use of appropriate hashtags. As seen with Twitter and cardiovascular medicine, there has been ease of participation and rapid access to information with the use of prominent hashtags (#cardiotwitter #medtwitter). It has been demonstrated that online participation in education and distribution of information has increased on social medial platforms in comparison to typical journal use and discussions are highlighted the world over. The next step is to expand these meaningful interactions and experiences to Instagram, where the addition of media can further broaden the scope of cardiac specialists with other disciplines and the general public.

As with all platforms, it is important that one ensures validity of posted messages, maintains professionalism, abides by HIPAA, states any pertinent protections for self and business, and as a medical professional, holds true to the oath of doing no harm while combatting misinformation.

To recap:

  1. Be consistent with content.
  2. Use multiple mediums for engagement: posts, stories, IG live, IGTV and Reels.
  3. Grow your community and interact regularly with likes, comments, direct messages and shares with other pages.
  4. Use appropriate hashtags to expand your reach.
  5. State protections.
  6. Maintain professionalism.

The use of Instagram for the medical community and within cardiology has the potential to allow for further networking and education. What is unique to Instagram apart from other existing social media platforms is the combination of mediums with videos, visuals, longer captions, live interactions and a wider range of audience. The interaction with this diverse audience – using these different mediums – can lead to greater reach and additional opportunities. We believe the use of Instagram can be maximized for educational, personal and professional development within the medical community – at all levels. The prospect of further expansion and prosperity within the field of cardiology with the use of Instagram is promising and should be the next beat for the cardiovascular community.

Aamisha Gupta
Ambreen Mohamed, MD, FACC

This article was authored by Aamisha Gupta, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego, CA, (Twitter: @doubleaguptamd) and Ambreen Mohamed, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA (Twitter: @AmbreenMohamed).