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Social Media: Good Medicine or Poison for Your Practice?

In MedCity News, Samantha Gluck discusses the ubiquity of social media in medicine – from medical schools to medical practices to hospitals – and some of their pitfalls. Many physicians and physicians-in-training lack some of the etiquette necessary to keep from landing in hot water when it comes to their blogging or tweets, and most of the time these comments can’t be taken back.

In a study from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Katherine Chretien found that

3 percent of the over 5,000 tweets posted by 260 physicians contained offensive content. Of the offending 3 percent, statistical data breaks down as follows: 42.1 percent of medical or healthcare blogs described experiences with specific patients, 17.7 percent of the blogs spoke negatively about their patients, and 31.7 percent included derogatory remarks about the healthcare system at large; of 5,156 tweets analyzed, 50 percent related to medicine or healthcare, 12 percent involved physician tweets of self-promotion, 1 percent promoted a medical product or treatment, and 3 percent were deemed unprofessional or contained racial slurs and curse words.

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) has these words of advice for its medical personnel:

  • Think before you post
  • Once you post content, you relinquish control of its proliferation forever
  • Even the strictest privacy settings do not ensure total security
  • Do not access social media platforms during working hours
  • All content posted on social media that identify you as affiliated with [your institution] must include a disclaimer that the opinions expressed do not represent those of [your institution]
  • Never reveal confidential or exclusive information on the Internet
  • Respect copyrighted material and post only with consent of the owner
  • References to staff, faculty, students, or any person or organization associated with [your institution] (including competitors) must be truthful and respectful
  • Do not post any content that might put [your institution] in a bad light or incite litigation

 

 

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