Social Media: Let’s Be Careful Out There

Renal Business Today has a blurb on a study featured recently in JAMA of physician use of Twitter that concludes more accountability and guidance are needed for physicians if the profession is to make more constructive use of social media.

One of the study’s authors states that “while the majority of tweets were potentially helpful, the ethical breaches and unprofessional content raised a red flag”.  Examples of some of the unprofessional use of Twitter included postings with material that included “included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements”.  Other instances of improper postings were related to the selling of products or the use of therapies that were not supported by current medical guidelines.

My experience has been that the overwhelming number physicians use social and other non-traditional media in a responsible, professional manner to communicate clinical information with colleagues, staff and patients. Are there exceptions? Sure there are. And those communications captured for all of posterity do look pretty damning in the context of a disciplinary hearing or lawsuit.

I develop social media policies for physician practice organizations and other businesses and they are helpful for setting standards for all to follow. But some good old fashioned common sense is the best guide to avoid problems with social media, email, and entries on EHR. If you wouldn’t say it in front of a room full of people, don’t type it on the keypad.


About Bill Cadigan

WILLIAM J. CADIGAN is principal in the Law Office of William J. Cadigan, P.C. located in Chicago, Illinois. Before starting his own firm, Bill Cadigan was a member of the Health Industry Group of the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld L.L.P.
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