The Perils and Pitfalls of Social Networks

Désirée Lie, MD, MSEd


August 26, 2011

The Perils and Pitfalls of Social Networks

Consider the following situations:

  1. You maintain a personal Facebook account that identifies you by photograph, name, age, and practice status. You use the highest privacy setting. A patient who lives in your neighborhood and whose children go to the same school as yours makes an online request to "friend" you. You Google the patient and find her social contacts and information about her employment and political opinions. How would you respond to her request?

  2. You are in private practice and maintain contact with colleagues through online social networks. You notice a recent tweet from a colleague employed by a prominent local hospital asking for advice from psychiatrists about management of an acutely suicidal patient without explicit patient permission. What, if anything, should you do?

These situations raise some key questions. Can physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals separate their personal and professional identities online? What are the duties of healthcare providers to maintain the integrity and status of their respective professions when it comes to other clinicians' use of social media?


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