You may want to be Facebook friends with your doctor, so you can ping him or her a quick question or maybe an image of a bug bite for an online diagnosis. But the question being asked by the medical community is, should your doctor be Facebook friends with you?
The American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Federation of State Medical Boards issued a policy statement in the Annals of Internal Medicine addressing best practices for physicians in the digital environment.
As more doctors are using social media in both their personal and professional lives — and more patients want information in a digital minute — there hasn’t been formal guidelines for how this online relationship should proceed, until now.
“Digital communications and social media use continue to increase in popularity among the public and the medical profession,” wrote Phyllis Guze, MD, FACP, chair, Board of Regents, ACP. “This policy paper provides needed guidance on best practices to inform standards for the professional conduct of physicians online.”
According to those recommendations, the use of online media can bring about educational benefits both to patients and their doctors. But they acknowledge possible ethical challenges as well. They also suggest that doctors maintain separate personal and professional identities online — consisting of perhaps a personal Facebook account as well as a professional page for communication or sharing health info.