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Ignoring Facebook as a potential practice tool could leave derms socially stranded

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dermatologists who have integrated Facebook into their practices say the widely used social networking platform allows them to communicate news and promotional information quickly, easily, and at virtually no cost. In this issue, we look at experts' recommendations on how to start building your own digital presence — even if you're a novice.

Dr. Torok
National report — Medina, Ohio, dermatologist Helen M. Torok, M.D., says her busy practice could spend $3,000 to $5,000 every quarter on a printed and snail-mailed patient newsletter. Instead, creating a business page on Facebook eliminated that expense and allows her to offer patients more timely information.

"We post our activities: our new hires, our new doctors ... what we have coming in the next week, two weeks. So we're constantly posting new information," she says. "It's a really up-to-date, current newsletter for us."

Dermatologist Patricia K. Farris, M.D., says her Metairie, La., practice has had its Facebook page for about two years. The page is filled with recent media interviews involving Dr. Farris, as well as practice news and staff photos.

"I don't see a downside," she says. "Patients will come in and tell us what they saw on our Facebook page."

Doctors who use the popular social networking platform to market their practices and connect with patients say the benefits far outweigh the minimal investment in time and effort.

Versatile Facebook allows the posting of updates about the practice, medical news, upcoming seminars, promotions and anything else. Pages also can incorporate photos of the office, the staff and special events.

Dr. Torok's Trillium Creek Dermatology and Surgery page even includes links to YouTube videos describing the expansion of her services at a new location.

Advances in hair-transplantation techniques and instrumentation are allowing physicians to provide more comprehensive, natural-appearing results, sometimes in a single session.

The addition of afamelanotide, known by the trademark Scenesse (Clinuvel), may represent a major advance in the treatment of vitiligo, a condition for which there is no therapy in the United States that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In healing persistent surgical or other wounds of the lower leg, says Jeffrey E. Petersen, M.D., it's dermatologists' understanding of the fine balance required for wound healing — and how to manipulate this balance — that "allows us to walk where others fear to tread."

While the standard of care to treat melanomas is surgery, when melanomas appear as in situ or as lentigo malignas, which have the potential for invasion, imiquimod can serve as a first-line option for treatment.

When analyzing suspicious lesions, any diagnostic tool is only as good as the physician using it. Besides patients' suspicions, dermatologists can rely on objective diagnostic tools including dermoscopy and total body photography.