Are you friends with your primary care physician on Facebook? Do you follow your doctor on Twitter? Do you ask for medical advice from your doctor online? If you do ask for medical advice, have you ever worried about whether or not your private medical information may or may not be actually held confidential from others? What about that HIPAA form you are always asked to sign at the doctor’s office? Are HIPAA guidelines being followed by doctor’s using social media to interact with their patients online?
According to an article in The SF Gate, Ryan Greysen, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCSF, surveyed 48 state medical boards that license and discipline doctors. Greysen found that 44 of them received reports of violations of online professionalism, including violations of improper contact with patients, inappropriately giving diagnoses and misrepresentation of one’s credentials. The disciplinary measures ranged from limiting or suspending physicians’ licenses to revoking them.
Doctors need to remember that, like lawyers, they have a higher level of care and privacy owed to their patients. The Federation of State Medical Boards’ Special Committee on Ethics and Professionalism was asked in 2011 to provide guidelines on the use of social media: