With the increasing complexity of online communications today, I’m happy to see the American Medical Association provide guidance on how to use social media that specifically addresses physicians (and medical students) and is not only well thought out, but also succinct and easy to understand and apply.
The new AMA Policy regarding professionalism in the use of social media lays out six guidelines including one that is fairly unique to the physician community. Rearranged somewhat from the official policy, the guidelines amount to the following:
- Maintain patient privacy and confidentiality
- Maintain appropriate patient-physician relationship boundaries
- Don’t trust the available privacy safeguards on social media sites when determining what is or is not appropriate to share through these media
- Separate your personal and professional personas online
- Recognize that your actions online may have real-world consequences
- When you see inappropriate or unprofessional usage of social media by other physicians, you have a responsibility to raise the issue first with that individual and then, if the issue is sufficiently bad and they fail to remedy the situation, take the issue to the appropriate authorities.
It is this last guideline that is somewhat unique. Physicians who choose to use social media have an obligation to police their colleagues. It will be fascinating to see if this works and if other professional medical societies follow the AMA’s lead.