Social networking and doctoring. Interesting concepts. USA Today’s opinion editorial from a physician backs up the idea that doctors should not be “friending” their patients. Her reasons were two-fold. . .
Professional judgment may be impaired when a physician has another relationship (financial, social or professional) in addition to the therapeutic relationship. As a family doctor in a tight-knit community, I am friends with many of my patients. I try to keep these relationships separate and distinct.
There is also the issue that in a public platform, such as facebook, there’s threat to patient privacy. The American Medical Association adopted a social media use policy November 2010. It states that physicians “should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.” I appreciate that. I once replied to a patient’s facebook question regarding morning sickness and “outed” her pregnancy to her extended family.
My patients know how to reach me during the day and after hours. I am accessible. Online is not a good forum. I liken online correspondence to a “curbside consult.” When I’m at a BBQ and a patient asks me about an issue (hip pain, vaginal discharge—you’d be surprised. . .) I do not have access to past medical history, allergies, surgeries, test results nor can I do an adequate physical exam. That is subpar health advice. An office visit is the best way to conscientiously and thoroughly address health problems.
Hope this helps.