The R.I. Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline has issued policy guidelines for the appropriate use of social media and social networking in medical practice.
The board, which has the power to discipline Rhode Island doctors for misconduct and violation of professional standards, issued the guidelines “to educate physicians regarding the appropriate use” of social media and networking “while maintaining the high professional standards” required by the medical profession.
Doctors, patients and everyone impacted by our health care system share an interest in how the medical profession utilizes social media and networking. At the same time, doctors need to understand the legal limitations on them as employers of social media using employees.
Doctors use social media in myriad ways. For example, a doctor may have a personal Facebook page, post pictures to Snapchat or Instagram, read and post content to medical blogs, follow and respond to medical experts on Twitter, and promote her practice online by making statements about her successful intervention with a particular disease or experience with a specific, new modality. On a more macro-level, doctors and medical researchers grapple with complex issues pertaining to crowd sourcing in medical research, telemedicine, and the professional utilization of social networking in the age of the electronic medical records and privacy laws such as HIPPA.
The guidelines caution that the physician-patient relationship, and the public trust in the medical profession, can be undermined by the unintended consequences of doctors’ social media usage. Seven narratives describe doctors getting themselves in bad situations by their online conduct.
The examples can be categorized as:
• Boundary issues with patients created when doctors interact with patients on-line.
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