State medical board federation issues social media guidelines

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon

The Federation of State Medical Boards' (FSMB) House of Delegates has released new policy guidelines on the appropriate use of social media and social networking sites by physicians.

Developed by the FSMB’s Special Committee on Ethics and Professionalism, "Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice" provides recommendations for state medical boards to consider in educating their licensees on the proper use of social media and social networking websites.

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

One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 92 percent of state medical boards have received reports of violations of online professionalism.

Developed by the FSMB to encourage physicians who use social media to protect themselves from unintended consequences, the new model guidelines include these recommendations:

  • Physicians should only have online interaction with patients when discussing the patient’s medical treatment within the physician-patient relationship—and these interactions should never occur on personal social networking or social media websites.
  • Patient privacy and confidentiality must be protected at all times, especially on social media and social networking websites. Although physicians may discuss their experiences in non-clinical settings, they should never provide any information that could be used to identify patients.
  • Physicians should be aware that any information they post on a social networking site may be disseminated to a larger audience, and that what they say may be taken out of context or remain publicly available online in perpetuity.

Access the guidelines in their entirety on the FSMB website.