Social Media and Clinical Care
Ethical, Professional, and Social Implications
It is an exciting time to practice medicine during our digital “coming of age.” Social media, the freely available Web-based platforms that facilitate information sharing of user-generated content, such as social networking sites, media-sharing sites, blogs, microblogs, and wikis, have transformed the way we communicate as a society. Through community building, message amplification, rapid dissemination, and engagement, social media has changed our interactions with others and, by direct consequence, our relationships. For health care, this represents a veritable social revolution. 1
Indeed, medicine is constantly evolving to adapt to new technologies. These advances have led to new therapies, diagnostic tools, and ways of communicating. As physicians and lifelong learners, it has been imperative to embrace the new when it has meant better and more efficient patient care while holding on to the stable tenets of medicine that root our profession: humanism, integrity, ethics, professionalism, and trust.
Patients have been active on social media to find health information, find support through discussion groups and forums, and chronicle their illness journeys.2 Naturally, they are also interested in using social media to facilitate communication between themselves and their providers. In a survey of patients of an outpatient family practice clinic, 56% wanted their providers to use social media for appointment setting and reminders, diagnostic test results reporting, health information sharing, prescription notifications, and answering general questions.3 For those patients who do not use social media, many would start if they knew that they could connect with their providers there.3
Physicians are also exploring ways to use social media, both personally and professionally, although personal use is more common.4–6 Some physicians use social media professionally to find and share health information, communicate/network with colleagues and trainees, disseminate their research, market their practice, or engage in health advocacy. In …