Online Engagement Rules & Advice For Physicians

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Social media and the internet in general is an invaluable tool for healthcare professionals and physicians, however it doesnt come without its cautions...

Social media and the internet in general is an invaluable tool for healthcare professionals and physicians, however it doesn’t come without its cautions and its challenges. According to a position paper from the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards published in Annals of Internal Medicine the internet represents “a new frontier in medicine” but it also “present numerous and novel challenges to professionalism.”

The paper outlined a new conceptual “framework for analysing medical ethics and professionalism issues” on the internet and provides recommendations for physicians on the use of email, blog, social media sites and more.

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Healthcare Global highlights some of the paper’s suggestions for online communication for safe and effective online engagement >>>

#1. When communicating with patients, physicians should “consistently apply ethical principles for preserving the relationship, confidentiality, privacy, and respect for persons to online settings and communications.”

#2. Pause before posting. The paper states that “the ease of use and immediacy of social media tools can lead to unintended outcomes or messages.”

#3. Avoid patient targeted Googling. Although there are numerous valuable educational resources available, the paper advises physicians to evaluate the quality of online content before giving recommendations to their patients.

#4. Never use the internet to complain about patients, name or no name. Physicians who use blogs, Twitter and other outlets to vent against patients are “disrespectful” and may “undermine trust in the profession.”

#5. Maintain clear and distinct professional and social identities online, but professional standards must be maintained in both spheres. Patients should not be “friended” by physicians and should not be included in the personal or social online interactions of physicians.

#6. Avoid medical humor. Medical humor, though intended for fellow professionals, can easily find a wider audience on the internet.


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