Millions of Americans use social networks and blogs to communicate, but when those users are physicians, challenges to the patient-physician relationship can arise. The new policy adopted on November 8, 2010, by the American Medical Association (AMA) aims at helping physicians to maintain a positive online presence and preserve the integrity of the patient-physician relationship.
“Using social media can help physicians create a professional presence online, express their personal views and foster relationships, but it can also create new challenges for the patient-physician relationship,” said AMA Board Member Mary Anne McCaffree, M.D. “The AMA’s new policy outlines a number of considerations physicians should weigh when building or maintaining a presence online.”
The new policy encourages physicians to:
- Use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the fullest extent possible on social networking sites.
- Routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
- Maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality is maintained.
- Consider separating personal and professional content online.
- Recognize that actions online and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.
The new policy on professionalism when using social media was adopted at the AMA’s semi-annual policy making meeting in San Diego.
AMA’s new policy could be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/meeting/professionalism-social-media.shtml