In the healthcare field, the use of social media is limited by ethical and professional boundaries. While the advent of the world wide web is celebrated for facilitating the sharing of medical knowledge from one leading physician to another, thus, increasing the development of the field by a hundred-fold, leaders of the healthcare industry often remain wary about the rising trend of physicians and other members of the medical team using social networking sites, such as Facebook pages, blogs, and forums, for posting personal content. This may be because while the digital information age has made communication and information sharing a lot easier, it comes with the risk of personal data becoming a hack away from being used by the wrong people, and privacy becoming nearly nonexistent.
But to shy away from the many possibilities and opportunities that can open up for physicians using social media is also a step back from having the right to express freedom of speech. There is no law preventing physicians from using social media, but there are several guidelines and universal laws to ensure that the Hippocratic oath is well under play in the World Wide Web.
The British Medical Association suggests that doctors and medical students keep in mind the following:
Create a Conservative Privacy Setting
- Always remember to check and customize your privacy settings across all social media networking websites whenever possible. These privacy settings will help prevent search engines from being able to sift through your personal data and posts and broadcast them on Google without your permission.
- A great way to establish a boundary between your personal and professional life is to create a separate social media page for your practice. This way, you can interact with your patients at a professional level while keeping a sense of privacy as well.
Patient Confidentiality is Top Priority
- Patient confidentiality is essentially tattooed on the minds of every doctor that takes the Hippocratic oath, but the lines sometimes get blurred in the in the world of social media. Sharing data and results of medical cases is a great way of sharing new knowledge to other leading physicians on the web. However, you must always shy away from divulging any personal information about any former or present patients, even when posting it anonymously. Remember that once information is posted online, it leaves a digital footprint that may be dug up at any time in the future even if you’ve already deleted them. Thus, you should always ensure that you only post information or comments that you can be proud to standby on in the future.
Declaring Conflict of Interest
- Physicians are always expected to make unbiased, ethical choices. Thus, it is important to declare conflict of interest whenever you are endorsing specific healthcare products in order to maintain professionalism even in the digital world.
Keep Yourself Digitally Clean
- Your digital image is a direct reflection of who you are as a physician, so be conscious of everything you share online. Social media is a powerful tool, it is up to you to decide if you let it make you or break you.