Using Snapchat to live-stream surgeries — a brewing controversy

Physicians are at odds with one another over a creative use of the mobile messaging app Snapchat, sparking the question of if it's appropriate to, with patient consent, live-stream surgeries through the app.

For instance, Matthew Schulman, MD, a plastic surgeon practicing in New York City, posts clips from his surgeries to Snapchat, garnering a million views every day in the process, he told the New York Post.

"I was looking for a platform to show surgeries in a way that was realistic and not sensationalized or glamorized as is commonly done for television," he told the NY Post.

Dr. Schulman says he gets patients' permission prior to live-streaming clips from the operating room, and roughly 90 percent of his patients give him the go ahead to do so.

However, not everyone is pleased with using the social media platform in this way.

"There is no question that some physicians using Snapchat are being unprofessional and lack integrity based on their behavior," Dan Mills, MD, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, told the NY Post, also noting possible patient safety and infection control issues associated with live-streaming surgeries. He told the Post that ASAPS' ethics committee is currently discussing the topic.

But Dr. Mills may be in the minority in his view of Snapchatting surgeries. A recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found millennial physicians have a "relaxed stance" when it comes to social media use as a professional.

Indeed, Dr. Schulman isn't the only physician using social media to show their work to the masses — other plastic surgeons and dermatologists, like Michael Salzhauer, MD; Snehal Amin, MD; or Sandra Lee, MD; post videos of procedures or surgeries on YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat as well.

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