New guidelines give doctors a lesson in social media

New guidelines give doctors a lesson in social media

Social media has quickly become part of the fabric of life and physicians have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years. But new guidelines say it’s critical that doctors protect patient privacy in online conversations.

The recommendations from the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) were published in the April 16 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The report highlighted both the advantages and dangers of practicing medicine in an increasingly connected world.

“Digital communications and social media use continue to increase in popularity among the public and the medical profession,” said Phyllis Guze, MD, chair, of the Board of Regents for ACP in a news release. “This policy paper provides needed guidance on best practices to inform standards for the professional conduct of physicians online.”

Some of the key advice included:

  • Physicians need to be careful to separate their personal and professional online profiles and advised not to “friend” any of their patients on social media.
  • Text messaging is convenient and useful but shouldn’t be used to interact with patients except with extreme caution and only if the patient gives consent.
  • Email should only be used by doctors who have an established patient-physician relationship and must have patient consent in advance.
  • If a doctor is solicited for clinical advice online from someone whom they have not met, the guidelines say they the doctor should encourage that person to schedule an office visit or seek emergency care if necessary.
  • Physicians need to be thoughtful and cautious about the content of the material posted on their personal pages.

“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,” said Humayun Chaudhry, DO, resident and CEO of FSMB in a statement.


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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.