According to a report by  The Wall Street Journal , doctors and other healthcare providers are trying to establish a social media presence as part of their ongoing healthcare strategy. Goals range from conveying helpful health messages and information to the public, to relationship or engagement with both patients and other doctors.

Professionals are trying social communication out, sometimes for the first time so that channels vary between personal accounts and those of larger medical facilities in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Jake Varghese — a family physician in Georgia — said that he communicates with patients through a portal and other tools provided by his employer. He said that he would not feel comfortable “friending” a patient through his personal Facebook page.

However, Jen Brull — a family physician in Kansas — said that she is comfortable with becoming Facebook friends with patients who are her friends offline. She added that she is willing to give those patients medical advice through the website because it fits with the way she practices medicine.

Meanwhile, Mark Ryan — a family physician in Virginia — said that he does not mind patients following him on Twitter even though his updates sometimes reflect his views on political issues buy ventolin in singapore related to health care. He said if patients choose to seek him out on Twitter, it is their choice to learn about his personal views.

Violations to HIPPA are a concern

Engagement with patients through social media sites brings up the concern that privacy is not maintained or that the line between patients and healthcare professionals are now becoming blurred.

To address the problem, professional associations and organizations have formulated guidelines concerning online behavior as to what is acceptable and what is deemed inappropriate.

A  recent survey of state medical board officers published in last month’s Annals of Internal Medicine examines online actions that likely would result in an investigation of a physician (Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 2/4).

According to the survey, online behaviors that would “likely” or “very likely” result in an investigation of a physician include:

  • Misrepresenting treatment outcomes, with 81% of respondents saying that such action would trigger an investigation;
  • Posting patient images online without consent, cited by 79% of respondents; and
  • Misrepresenting credentials, cited by 77% of respondents (iHealthBeat, 1/16).

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