From AAP: R Macauley et al. Pediatrics: 2021; 147 (3) e2020049685. Full text. Ethical Considerations in Pediatricians’ Use of Social Media Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference.
- Pediatricians who choose to use social media should have separate personal and professional social media pages, with patients and their parents directed to the professional page.
- A pediatrician’s personal page should have adequate privacy settings to prevent unauthorized access. Professional pages should be set to prevent tagging.
- It is wise to pause before posting, given that information posted online can exist in perpetuity and can be captured and redisseminated by viewers before it can be deleted.
- Pediatricians should follow state and federal privacy and confidentiality laws as well as the social media policies of their health care organization and any professional society to which they belong.
- Independent practitioners should develop social media policies for their practices to protect patients and clarify expectations. These policies should be in writing and widely distributed to all staff and clinicians. If restrictions on communicating with patients are in place in such policies, this should be shared with patients. Given advances in technology, these policies should be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.
- Conflicts of interest, including in tweets, blog postings, and media appearances by pediatricians, should be disclosed.
- Pediatricians should use a HIPAA-compliant secure site with encryption when communicating about health care or rendering advice directly to patients or families. Individually identifiable protected health information should not be shared through social media without documented authorization from the patient or guardian.
- Before posting on social media, protected health information should be deidentified (and clearly noted to be so) and presented respectfully.
- Professional boundaries should be maintained in the use of social media. Accepting (and certainly initiating) friend requests from current patients is discouraged. It is up to the pediatrician’s discretion whether to accept such requests from former patients. It may be appropriate to accept a friend request from a patient’s parent if the physician’s relationship to that person extends beyond the clinical environment.
- Searching for patient information through the Internet or social media should have a specific purpose with clear clinical relevance. Any information obtained through this route should be shared directly with the patient to maximize transparency and before recording any such information in the patient’s chart.
- Pediatricians should monitor their online profile to protect against inaccurate postings. Negative online reviews warrant a thoughtful response that honors confidentiality requirements, including the fact that the reviewer is or was the physician’s patient.
- Pediatricians should recognize that providing specific medical advice to an individual through social media may create a physician-patient relationship that may have documentation, follow-up, state licensing, and liability implications.
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