Doctors Urged to Refrain from Social Media Contacts With Patients
Texting or 'friending' patients on Facebook frowned upon in new professional guidelines
URL of this page: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_135870.html
(*this news item will not be available after 07/11/2013)
Friday, April 12, 2013
Updated recommendations for online ethics from the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) say the key is drawing a clear line between professional life and social life.
If physicians fail to do so, the "potential dangers are confidentiality concerns, replacement of face-to-face or phone interaction, and ambiguity or misinterpretation of digital interactions," the American College of Physicians said in a news release.
Some of the key recommendations:
- Doctors should not contact or "friend" patients through personal social media such as Facebook.
- Text-messaging should not be used for passing along medical information except when there is patient consent. Even then, doctors should use "extreme caution," the guidelines said.
- Careful judgment is needed when a doctor is contacted through email or other electronic communications by someone who is seeking medical advice but has had no previous contact with the doctor. In such situations, it is usually best for the doctor to encourage the person to schedule an office visit, or, in the case of an urgent concern, to go to the nearest emergency department.
- Doctors should establish an online professional profile so that it appears first during an online search, instead of a review of the doctor from a physician ranking site. This can provide more control, so that the information read by patients is accurate.
- Medical trainees need to be careful about what they post online, or they could damage their future careers.
The policy paper appears online and in the April 16 print issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.