Social Media for Doctors: What’s Appropriate to Post?

Doctor on Coffee BreakThe American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards are behind a new position paper that aims to establish appropriate boundaries of social media usage for doctors.

“It is important for physicians to be aware of the implications for confidentiality and how the use of online media for non-clinical purposes impacts trust in the medical profession,” asserts Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, president and CEO of the FSMB.

The creation and use of information online and the widespread use of the Internet offer exciting new opportunities for patient care, but also require physicians to consider how to best protect patient interests and apply principles of professionalism to online settings…

Among the recommendations are:

  • Physicians should keep their professional and personal personas separate. Physicians should not “friend” or contact patients through personal social media
  • Physicians should not use text messaging for medical interactions even with an established patient except with extreme caution and consent by the patient
  • E-mail or other electronic communications should only be used by physicians within an established patient-physician relationship and with patient consent
  • Situations in which a physician is approached through electronic means for clinical advice in the absence of a patient-physician relationship should be handled with judgment and usually should be addressed with encouragement that the individual schedule an office visit or, in the case of an urgent matter, go to the nearest emergency department
  • Establishing a professional profile so that it “appears” first during a search, instead of a physician ranking site, can provide some measure of control that the information read by patients prior to the initial encounter or thereafter is accurate.
  • Many trainees may inadvertently harm their future careers by not responsibly posting material or actively policing their online content. Educational programs stressing a pro-active approach to digital image (online reputation) are good forums to introduce these potential repercussions.

The position paper is available now at http://www.acponline.org and http://www.annals.org.

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1 comments
Christopher Wasden
Christopher Wasden

this all seems a bit ridiculous, why not just say that doctors should never use innovative or new communication technologies with their patients? Survey show that only 11% of physicians use email yet 80% of patients want to communicate with their providers via email. Why do doctors remain in the stone age when it comes to communications?

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  1. […] Earlier this week, MHW reported that The American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards are behind a new position paper that aims to establish appropriate boundaries of social media usage for doctors. […]

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