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The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media: A Prudent Approach for Physicians


Posted by Anonymous at 11/7/2017 7:33:01 AM

How Physicians Should Use Social Media


The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media: A Prudent Approach for Physicians

By Doug Bennett, Contributor


In the social media era, one of the best career moves a physician can make is to be strategic and pro-active about maintaining an online presence. All healthcare professionals—physicians in particular—should also be aware of the inherent risks of using social media, which can sometimes exceed the benefits.


First, it’s important to understand your goals before you invest time with social media. Do you want to advertise your medical specialty and drive business to your practice? Share recent research results? Provide prospective patients with your business hours and insurance plans accepted?


On one hand, it’s hard to compete with the ease, accessibility and immediacy that social media offers. Overhead is low relative to traditional avenues such as paid advertising. Patient data and physician or practice information can be readily distributed—meaning fewer phone calls, office visits, and paper files to handle. And, patients increasingly turn to social media when shopping for a new primary care physician or specialist.


On the other hand, there are many reasons why physicians should exercise caution before using social media. Using social media creates a greater risk of patient privacy breaches, which can result in legal action, including license suspension or revocation. Essentially, any behavior or posting that can be construed as unprofessional could create lasting damage to your professional reputation.


Have you ever conducted a Web search on yourself? Were the search results accurate or erroneous? Did the results highlight your talents and strengths and portray you as the professional you are?


Organizations such as the AMA, the American Association of Family Physicians, and the Federation of State Medical Boards publish guidelines for prudent social media use by physicians. Some key recommendations include:

 

  • Maintain separate email and social networking accounts for personal vs. professional use
  • Never discuss medical treatment with patients on personal social networking sites, and do not accept “friend” requests from patients
  • Always pause and think before posting or hitting “send”
  • Never provide any information that could compromise the identity of a patient—doing so could be a HIPAA violation
  • Use texting, email, or other electronic communication tools only with established patients who have provided consent
  • Handle any requests for clinical advice (in the absence of an established patient-physician relationship) by encouraging the individual to schedule an office visit or, if urgent, to go to the nearest emergency room
  • Actively police and curate your online presence to avoid potential harm to your professional career
  • Create an online professional profile and ensure that it appears first in relevant search results—before physician ranking sites, which can be inaccurate, misleading, and potentially damaging to your professional reputation 

Above all, physicians should learn to recognize the security, privacy and confidentiality risks of all personal and professional electronic communications, including posts, email and texts. When your reputation is at stake, there simply is no room for error.


Take advantage of Merritt Hawkins’ unparalleled staffing resources and 20 years of experience with physician recruitment and placement. Call today to speak with one of our professional placement specialists.





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