This article originally appeared in the Principles of Practice Management e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative twice monthly practice management ENL here.
What makes someone an expert in their field? Why should someone take a dentist’s advice on diagnosis, treatment planning, material selection, or clinical technique? These have always been interesting questions to ponder and now, in our social media age, they have become more important to ask than ever before.
In the beginning, there were textbooks, print magazines, and live lectures. If you were to avail yourself of one of these resources, then you could reasonably assume that the content would be held to some standard. A peer-review board, an editor, or a selection committee would follow a process to ensure that the content producer and the content itself were legitimate.
Then the internet happened. Blogs, dental podcasts, public Facebook groups, private Facebook groups, YouTube channels . . . it’s nothing short of a communication revolution. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can build an audience and broadcast their ideas. Aspiring speakers and authors no longer have to wait for their phones to ring; they can self-publish.
This revolution has flooded our profession with content, and that’s a wonderful thing. It brings with it more voices, more opinions, and more ways to consume ideas that fit into our busy lives. But there is a potential pitfall with new media. So I ask again—what makes someone an expert?
Here’s a scenario that you may have encountered. You peruse your favorite Facebook group and come across a clinical post that is becoming very popular. The post has a lot of “Likes,” and the comments section has people shouting, “Bravo!” There’s only one problem . . . the dentistry is horrifying. You wonder how someone could not only do this to one of his or her patients but then also take pictures and place them on the internet for all to see. Why are these other viewers lavishing praise when they should be recoiling in horror?
I’m the chief editor of a print publication so it may seem very self-serving for me to critique another medium. Well, let me be clear: I love this media revolution. I fervently support the right of any dentist or member of the dental community to use modern media to build an audience and broadcast their ideas. But let’s admit that these new forums are still in their infancy. We must be more skeptical when we take advice from someone via the internet. In truth, we should turn the same discerning eyes toward even the traditional textbooks, print publications, and live lectures. We owe our patients and our profession our vigilance.
Do you agree? Disagree? You’re invited to bring healthy debate to the Principles of Practice Management Private Facebook Group.