Be careful when using social media

May 12, 2011

When you're on Facebook or Twitter or using other social media, remember to be honest, respect privacy, and uphold the reputation of the medical profession.

When you’re on Facebook or Twitter or using other social media, remember to be honest, respect privacy, and uphold the reputation of the medical profession. And give serious thought to keeping your professional and personal use of social media separate.

So suggest Arash Mostaghimi, MD, MPA, and Bradley H. Crotty, MD, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, in “Professionalism and the Digital Age,” published in the April 19, 2011, edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The profession should develop common standards for physician and physician-in-training use of social media, the authors say.

“As more providers and trainees use social networks and blogs, healthcare professionals must be aware of what is being posted online and how it is presented,” they write. “Furthermore, the use of online rating sites and search engines by patients requires physicians to understand and manage their online identities and personal brands. Together, these challenges demand that physicians proactively review and maintain their digital lives.”

The authors recommend that physicians consider all postings, professional or personal, as public and suggest that social media users examine their privacy settings closely. They also advise that if physicians communicate directly with patients electronically, that they do so via secure messaging rather than via third-party platforms such as Facebook or Twitter.