Ask your doctor - but not via social media

Physicians and other healthcare providers need to be especially careful when using social media

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Even just being being friends with patients on social media can be problematic. “That's a no-no,” said Blau. While it’s natural for patients to want to be connected in that way to their caregivers, letting them into the social life of a physician “changes the nature of the care relationship. It fundamentally can do damage to the trust that a patient puts in you as a professional.“

To try and deal with all of this, social media guidelines are being written by state medical boards, hospitals and medical schools. The younger generation of doctors, who are growing up with social media, are being educated early on about some of the issues, and some are choosing to be careful from the start. “A lot of med students and certainly a lot of new residents who are starting their training will actually leave Facebook. They will close down their accounts or they will turn on the strictest of privacy controls. They're learning how to manage all of that in order to basically reduce their profile,” Blau said.

But is it simply too risky for medical professionals to even use social media? Should they avoid it completely? Blau doesn’t think doctors need to completely disconnect. In fact, he believes that some public social networks can serve a useful role. “I've seen Twitter used well for broad discussion of philosophical issues in health care or broad trends in medicine,” he said. But, clearly, any discussion of specific patient issues should take place only in a secure, private environment, such as that which Doximity provides. 

As for those physicians and health care workers who choose to use traditional social media platforms, Blau suggests using extreme care. “The general wisdom is don't say anything you wouldn't say in a crowded elevator.”

Are you a physician or healthcare provider that uses social media? Are you a patient that has had contact with your physician via social media? What’s your experience been like? please share in the comments.

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