Friday, April 12, 2013

Should Doctors use Facebook, Twitter to Communicate with Patients?


My opinion:  As a fan of social media, it is sometimes difficult for me to understand why doctors should carefully control the use of their profiles on facebook and twitter.  I think the etiquette might be slightly different for both websites.  On twitter, doctors want people to follow them - anyone, really.  I'm following quite a few doctors who have thousands of followers.  But most write in their profiles that they are not giving medical advice, and that their opinions do not reflect those of their employers.  I understand that this may protect the doctors from being sued or hurting someone, but perhaps not always.  How do doctors know the different between general medical information and medical advice?  I think that medical information could be research findings and suggestions, but nothing instructional.  Should medical advice be called medical instructions, instead?  Now, getting to facebook, doctors cannot friend patients not only for boundary reasons, but because of confidentiality.  Many doctors of mine have communicated with me through a very private email system.  But, in the workplace, I think there is always some overlap into their personal lives whether they like it or not.  Don't patients want to acknowledge that their doctors are human, too?  Feel free to comment.

Facebook can complicate all sorts of relationships. Children and parents, teachers and students, and employees and supervisors all stand to benefit from keeping their personal lives separate from each other online. This is especially true for doctors- access to personal information aside from what's shared in the physician-patient relationship can interfere with proper care.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that 35 percent of doctors in a Journal of General Internal Medicine survey had received Facebook "friend" requests from patients or their family members, and that 58 percent of those always rejected them; that still leaves a significant number of physicians setting themselves up for ethical ambiguity.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) laid out ethical guidelines for physicians' Internet activities in a new policy paper about online medical professionalism, published in the new edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"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 Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, president and CEO of the FSMB, in a news release.
Read more at http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/14634/20130411/doctors-stop-friending-patients-facebook.htm#sjolK2rYBbjfdOzE.99

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