Federation of Medical Boards Adopts New Social Media Policy for Physicians

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The Federation of State Medical Boards House of Delegates adopted new policy guidelines on the appropriate use of social media and social networking sites by physicians.

Violations of online professionalism are prevalent among physicians, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars at Yale in collaboration with the FSMB, found that 92 percent of state medical boards in the United States have received reports of violations of online professionalism.

Developed by the FSMB to encourage physicians who use social media to protect themselves from unintended consequences, the new model guidelines include these recommendations:

• Physicians should only have online interaction with patients when discussing the patient's medical treatment within the physician-patient relationship, and these interactions should never occur on personal social networking or social media websites.
• Patient privacy and confidentiality must be protected at all times, especially on social media and social networking websites. Although physicians may discuss their experiences in non-clinical settings, they should never provide any information that could be used to identify patients.
• Physicians should be aware that any information they post on a social networking site may be disseminated to a larger audience and that what they say may be taken out of context or remain publicly available online in perpetuity.

To view the "Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice," click here.

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