Cyber Liability and Online Violations of Professionalism

Thinking PhysicianIt seems that our cyber liability suspicions have been proven positive. Cases are being made more and more for physician discipline and liability related to online violations.

A recent research letter published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association detailed complaints that state medical boards have received related to physician online activity. Forty-eight state medical boards responded to the survey. The results should cause physicians to sit up and take notice. The research tells us that physicians should take their online activity and cyber liability as seriously as they do their in-office, face-to-face interactions with their patients. In this new arena, physicians need to learn how to act defensively.

Forty-four of the boards said that they had received complaints of “online professionalism violations.” More specifically, the survey inquired about 8 specific areas of online violations, including “inappropriate patient communication online.”

The discipline actions taken by the state medical boards were significant and serious. For example, over 70% of respondents said they had sought a disciplinary action like a “formal hearing, consent order, or informal warning.” More than 50% of the state medical boards surveyed said that they had also issued a “suspension, restriction or revocation” of medical licenses.

Some of the online violations the physicians faced were, in no order:
patient confidentiality violations
prescribing drugs over the internet (without seeing the patient)
sexual misconduct (online)
discrimination

Cyber liability and online violations are no joke –and the state medical boards are quite clear about it. From doctor-patient e-mail communication to decisions about how to use social media, physicians need to act the same way they would as if the patient was in the room (except in the case of prescribing –where they really need to be in the same room!).

In a proactive measure, physicians should find out if their medical malpractice insurance would cover them in the event of a cyber liability charge of malpractice. Whether you are a dermatologist needing dermatology liability coverage, or an otolaryngologist needing otolaryngology liability coverage, or in another specialty, we can find you the coverage you need. If you have specific concerns about cyber liability, let our agents know.

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