Social Media and the Physician

Side Note: It seems that everyone is on Facebook these days and physicians are no exception. But, when do physicians go from just being “friends” to physicians on Facebook and on other social media? Or, should physicians always consider themselves physicians first when posting on social media? It is certainly a murky area at the moment. Social media has developed so quickly that many physicians are simply trying to find their way and figure out how to best use these new tools for themselves in their private and professional lives and their practices.

Seeing a growing concern over social media and worries that physicians may be opening themselves up to new medical malpractice liabilities, the Ohio State Medical Association came out with an excellent paper on this topic. The paper discusses many situations that physicians may face –often where the line between the physician being a common citizen/friend and the professional role of the physician may be blurry and advises physicians on how to conservatively handle these situations. In addition, the article also presents three references that are worth taking a look at: a “Best Practices” policy, a sample “Prohibited Use at Work” policy and a sample “Restricted Use at Work” policy. A physician may wish to use these as a starting point for his or her practice.

All physicians should check and see if and/or how social media may or may not be covered in their physician liability policy. While social media may seem harmless and not a significant part of a physician’s practice, its power should not be underestimated and physicians, in particular, should view their use of social media carefully and understand where their liability exposure may be.

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Social Networking and the Medical Practice
Published in 2010 by the Ohio State Medical Association at osma.org

Physician on ComputerSurveys show that 35 percent of American adults have a profile on a social networking site. Seventy-five percent of Facebook
users admit to checking their Facebook at work, on company time and company-owned equipment. In 2004, more than 10 percent of employees spent more than half of a day on email (86 percent of which is personal), and more than one in five employers (21 percent) had employee email and instant messages subpoenaed in the course of a lawsuit or regulatory investigation. One hundred percent of information placed on the Web is never really “erased” completely (Pew Internet Project, 2008).

Times have changed. Companies embrace social media to market products and services, and the healthcare field is no exception. Hospitals such as Kaiser Permanente and the Mayo Clinic are utilizing social media platforms for the benefit of patients, employees and practitioners.

Original article is here.

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