The Special Committee on Ethics and Professionalism of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) put out  new policy guidelines on the appropriate use of social media  sites by physicians and healthcare providers.  TheModel Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice provide recommendations for acceptable use.

“Digital media has enormous potential for doctors and patients, allowing us more opportunities to share information and establish meaningful professional relationships,” said FSMB President and CEO Humayun Chaudhry, DO. “However, physicians also need to be aware of how to maintain the same professional and ethical standards in their online activity as they do in the rest of their practice. Failing to do so can hurt patients and physicians’ careers.”

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. revealed that  92%  of state medical boards in the U.S. got reports of violations of online professionalism.

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.

The Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice is available on the FSMB website at

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