Physicians should exercise caution—and “pause before posting”—when interacting in online settings in order to preserve professionalism and maintain appropriate patient-physician relationships, according to a policy paper released today by the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards.
“This is a very important addition to the ethics literature,” Dr. David Fleming, chair of the ACP's ethics, professionalism and human rights committee, said during a news briefing.
“Online Medical Professionalism: Patient and Public Relationships” addresses the use of online and social media and electronic communication between physicians and patients. The two organizations looked at opportunities and challenges created by new technologies and online forums, and provided recommendations and strategies for physician behavior in these areas.
“Digital communications and social media use continue to increase in popularity among the public and medical profession,” Dr. Phyllis Guze, chair of the ACP's board of regents, said in a release. “This policy paper provides needed guidance on best practices to inform standards for the professional conduct of physicians online.”