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Physicians Need Guidelines on Use of Social Media

Physicians Need Guidelines on Use of Social Media“Physicians on Twitter” was the subject of a research letter in the Feb. 9 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, documenting some instances of unethical and unprofessional content online by doctors.

Up to 3 percent of tweets posted on Twitter in the study were found to be unprofessional — they included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements.

Researcher Katherine Chretien, M.D., F.A.C.P., associate professor of medicine at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, called for greater accountability and guidelines for physicians who are regular users of Twitter.

“This research helped us to identify how physicians are using social media and has helped us gauge whether or not there is need for greater accountability for physicians who use social media,” said Chretien.

“While the majority of tweets were potentially helpful, the ethical breaches and unprofessional content raised a red flag.”

The study, approved by the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, was initiated to describe the characteristics of self-identified physicians on Twitter and how they use Twitter, with a specific focus on professionalism.

The researchers examined 5,156 tweets from 260 self-identified physicians with 500 or more followers between May 1 and May 31, 2010.

They found that three percent of the tweets were categorized as “unprofessional,” meaning that they included profanity, potential patient privacy violations, sexually explicit material, or discriminatory statements.

In addition, one percent of the tweets were marked “other unprofessional,” which included unsupported claims about a product they were selling on their Web site or repeated promotions of specific health products.

Ten of these statements about medical therapies countered existing medical knowledge or guidelines, potentially leading to patient harm.

Source: George Washington University

Physicians Need Guidelines on Use of Social Media

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Physicians Need Guidelines on Use of Social Media. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/15/physicians-need-guidelines-on-use-of-social-media/23526.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.