Professional Use of Social MediaCategories: Ethics and Professionalism Adopted: Mar 2013 | Amended: Mar 2021
The Board recognizes that social media has increasing relevance to professionals and supports its responsible use. However, licensed health care professionals are held to a higher standard than others with respect to social media because health care professionals, unlike members of the lay public, are bound by ethical and professional obligations that extend beyond the exam room.
The informality of social media sites may obscure the serious implications and long term consequences of certain types of postings. The Board encourages licensees to consider the implications of their online activities including, but not limited to, the following:
- Licensees must understand that the code of conduct that governs their face to face encounters with patients also extends to online activity. As such, licensees interacting with patients online must maintain appropriate boundaries in accordance with professional ethical guidelines, just as they would in any other context.
- Licensees have an absolute obligation to maintain patient privacy and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online regardless of the practice location or circumstance, i.e. volunteer services or services provided abroad.
- A licensee’s publicly available online content directly reflects on his or her professionalism. It is advisable that licensees separate their professional and personal identities online (i.e. maintain separate email accounts for personal and professional use; establish a social media presence for professional purposes and one for personal use, etc.).
- Because privacy is never absolute, considerations of professionalism should also extend to a licensee’s personal accounts. Posting of material that demonstrates, or appears to demonstrate, behavior that might be considered unprofessional, inappropriate, or unethical should be avoided.
- The online use of profane, disparaging, or discriminatory remarks about individual patients or types of patients is unacceptable
- Licensees should routinely monitor their own online presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites is accurate and appropriate.
The Board also endorses the Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice adopted by the Federation of State Medical Boards. Further discussion of this issue by the Board’s Medical Director can be found here.