As more and more physicians embrace social media - Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and the like - more and more (unaswered) questions arise about how best to deal with patient connections there. As explained in a recent American Medical News article:
Some hospitals and medical schools have policies to direct physicians, medical students and other health professionals on how to use social media properly, but formal ethical guidance to help physicians maintain professional standards online is scarce. Doctors are largely on their own to devise rules on how to maintain appropriate boundaries with patients on social media.
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital physician Alan Greene, MD, is particularly social-media-savvy (he has a Twitter feed, Facebook page and very interactive website) - and he shares his thoughts in the article:
"A couple of generations ago, the house call was the common way physicians would find out about the real lives of people and make an impact right in the middle of their lives, and today it's social media," [said Greene].
Dr. Greene said doctors using social media need to remember that, whether they are in the hospital, the exam room or cyberspace, their behavior reflects on the entire profession. "Even though we are coming out from behind our stethoscopes and white coats in the social media world, that doesn't allow us to let go of our professionalism and ethics and responsibilities and our objectivity," he said. "We want to bring that into every patient encounter we have."