Medical Boards Offer Guidance on Clinicians' Use of Social Media

The Federation of State Medical Boards' House of Delegates has released new guidelines describing the appropriate use of social media by health care providers, CMIO reports.

The guidelines -- which were developed by FSMB's Special Committee on Ethics and Professionalism -- aim to help state medical boards provide training on the proper use of social media, as well as help health care providers protect themselves from unintended consequences related to social media use.

In the guidelines, FSMB recommends that health care providers:

  • Interact with patients online only when discussing the patient's medical treatment and never engage in such discussions on social networking websites;
  • Strive to protect patient privacy and confidentiality at all times, particularly when discussing clinical experiences on social networking sites;
  • Understand that any information posted on a social networking site might reach a larger audience and be taken out of context (Walsh, CMIO, 5/7);
  • Disclose their employment credentials and any conflicts of interest; and
  • Maintain their professionalism at all times.

Humayun Chaudhry, FSMB President and CEO, in a statement said, "Digital media has enormous potential for doctors and patients, allowing us more opportunities to share information and establish meaningful professional relationships."

He added, "However, physicians also need to be aware of how to maintain the same professional and ethical standards in their online activity as they do in the rest of their practice. Failing to do so can hurt patients and physicians' careers" (Robeznieks, Modern Physician, 5/7).

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