AMA Guidelines for Physicians in Social Media

Finally, the American Medical Association (AMA) published guidelines for doctors using social media. The new policy encourages physicians to:

  • Use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the fullest extent possible on social networking sites.
  • Routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality is maintained.
  • Consider separating personal and professional content online.
  • Recognize that actions online and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.

For me, who teaches the proper and professional use of social media for medical students, this set of guidelines means nothing. To be honest, I expected much much more from AMA. Clear recommendations about how to use Facebook privacy settings properly with videos or screenshots; what to do when a patient sends us a friendship request on Facebook or when a patient writes about an adverse drug event on our blogs. Case studies, clear examples, tutorials, presentations.In my course, we go through real examples and simulations. What you should do when your patients contacts you via Twitter or when you patients comes into the office with Google search results and asks for specific products.

I feel like this AMA announcement is just a slight sign that AMA might be interested in social media and even if it knows about its growing importance, it only warns doctors that there might be problematic issues. This is not a guideline but a PR article, nothing more.

Fellow bloggers, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn and John Mack also covered this issue.