1. BE AWARE OF THE EFFECT OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Standards of medical care do not change by virtue of the tools used to interact. But these powerful tools may have unforeseen consequences, depending on the type of social media and the goals for use.
2. KEEP CURRENT WITH MEDICAL NEWS AND DEVELOPMENTS
Resources abound, but make sure they are reliable authority for your subspecialty.
3. MAINTAIN PROFESSIONAL PRESENCE AND ENRICH PROFESSIONAL NETWORK
Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites to maintain your professional presence and connect with colleagues, referral sources, and patients. A patient can “like” your Facebook page and be routed through regular patient intake and communication channels. Make sure that all credentials, representations, and claims are accurate, current, and do not constitute false advertising.
4. EDUCATE AND INFORM YOUR PATIENTS
General advice specific to your subspeciality can be posted on professional pages as well as on blogs. Always keep the information current and meaningful to your audience. Avoid disclosing Protected Health Information (PHI) that you obtain on a patient as a treating physician. Never use specific patient details as revealing details of medical care may violate HIPAA and patient privacy laws. Focus instead on general conditions and treatments options at a community level.
5. BE A COMMUNITY RESOURCE
Always keep in mind your professional image to the public. If you link to other websites, verify them as reliable authority and always give credit when due.
6. ASSIST COLLEAGUES OR OBTAIN ASSISTANCE
Closed physician networks (such as Sermo, Medscape, Quantia MD) allow physicians to disclose general patient conditions and solicit input from colleagues. Participants should avoid specific details and photographs (especially of facial areas) that may violate HIPAA and patient privacy laws. And keep in mind that even if other physicians participate in such closed networks, it does not mean that disclosure of PHI is legal or allowed.
7. AVOID GIVING MEDICAL ADVICE OR TREATMENT
In using social media, a provider must absolutely guard the PHI obtained as a covered entity under HIPAA and avoid accessing PHI of non-patients. A provider should not disclose any PHI to any third party via social media, even with privacy settings.
8. CONSIDER RECORDINGS “OFF LIMITS”
While it may not be illegal in your state to record a conversation or interaction over the phone or in person if you are a party to it (check state law), never surreptitiously record any patient interaction. Think twice before doing so even when a patient consents. And even with consent, never post such recordings on YouTube or any other such site, even with privacy settings.
9. OKAY TO MAINTAIN PERSONAL SOCIAL MEDIA
Just as physicians can have friends and a personal life, having a Facebook or a personal blog is acceptable as long as the content does not undermine the public trust in the medical profession. Also, a physician must be vigilant in keeping personal social media sites personal and directing patients asking for clinical advice through regular patient intake and communication channels.
10. USE YOUR GOOD JUDGMENT
If any certain social media interaction does not sit well with you, just say no. Don’t become an online example of bad judgment.