Last year, I wrote a post about 7 ways doctors can improve their online reputation. The American Medical Association published a social media policy earlier this year. Recently, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has come out with a new set of social media guidelines to help physicians stay professional in the online world.
FSMB’s Special Committee on Ethics and Professionalism created the recommendations so that state medical boards can use them when educating the physicians they license. The recommendations specifically refer to using social media and social networking websites. Their aim is to ensure that physicians are maintaining professional standards online, without overstepping the boundaries of patient confidentiality.
The new guidelines are a response to a study done in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars, which found that 92 percent of state medical boards have received a complaint about a physician’s online behavior. That astounding statistic proves the need for physicians to be proactive in their online activities.
The guidelines are broken down into three parts:
1. Only interact with your patients online when you are discussing medical treatment; these conversations should never occur on Facebook or other social media websites.
2. Always uphold patient privacy and confidentiality, no matter what medium you are using to communicate with other physicians. This rule applies when you’re at a medical conference, or on a physician-only networking site, like Sermo.com. Never use any identifying information when discussing your medical cases.
3. Always be aware of what you’re posting on Facebook and Twitter. Anything you post on these sites could be shared with or read by other audiences, and therefore may be taken out of context. Ensure that you are utilizing strict privacy settings, only friending people you know, and don’t use social media to offer medical advice or discuss specific patients.