Background: Patients increasingly rely on online resources to make healthcare decisions. Google dominates the search engine market; first-page results receive most of the web traffic and therefore serve as an important indicator of consumer reach. Objectives: Our objective was to analyze the respective importance of physician academic pedigree, experience, and social media presence on plastic surgeon Google first-page search result placement. Methods: A Google.com search was conducted in the top 25 United States metropolitan areas to identify the top 20 websites of board-certified plastic surgeons. Social media presence was quantified by tracking the number of followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for every surgeon as well as medical school and year of graduation. The primary outcome was website ranking in the first page of Google search results. To identify the independent predictors of presence on the front page, we performed a multivariate logistic regression. Results: Total number of social medial followers was associated with Google front-page placement (P < 0.001), whereas medical school ranking and years in practice were not (P = 0.17 and 0.39, respectively). A total 19.6% of plastic surgeon practices in our study cohort still had no social media accounts whatsoever. Conclusions: For the past few decades, plastic surgery practices relied on referrals, word of mouth, and the surgeon's reputation and academic pedigree to attract new patients. It is now clear that this practice-building model is being rapidly supplanted by a new paradigm based on social media presence to reach potential patients.
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