Medical Board regulates the practice of medicine to protect the health, safety,
and wellbeing of Oregon patients. As
medical practice has evolved, so has the method of communication among
practitioners, patients, and family.
Colleagues, administrators, and patients increasingly expect healthcare
professionals to stay connected, and online social networking has become a
resource for healthcare professionals to share information and to form meaningful
recognizes the benefits of social media and supports its responsible use. However, healthcare professionals are bound
by ethical and professional obligations that extend beyond the exam room, and social
media creates new challenges. Among the
primary obligations to consider when engaging in social media are
confidentiality, boundaries, and overall professionalism.
professionals have an obligation to protect patient privacy and confidentiality
in all environments. Identifiable
patient information – even seemingly minor details of a case or patient
interaction – must never be posted online.
Healthcare professionals must never discuss a patient’s medical
treatment or answer a patient’s health-related question through personal social
media. E-mail must be secure if used to
communicate medical information to patients.
Healthcare professionals must use discretion and consider all information
posted online to be public.
professionals must maintain appropriate boundaries in the physician-patient
relationship at all times. Electronic
media may blur the boundaries of the physician-patient relationship and heighten
the potential for boundary violations. As a result, healthcare professionals should
consider separating personal and professional social media accounts and
exercise caution if considering interacting with patients or their families online
through personal social networking sites.
Healthcare professionals should feel comfortable ignoring or declining requests
to connect from current or past patients through a personal social media
account. It is the professional’s responsibility
to maintain appropriate boundaries, not the patient’s.
and content directly reflect on professionalism. Therefore, healthcare professionals must understand
that their online activity may negatively impact their reputations and careers
as well as undermine the public’s overall trust in the profession. Healthcare professionals should not make
negative statements about other healthcare providers and should use caution
when responding to the negative comments of others on social media. When conflicted about posting online content,
healthcare professionals should err on the side of caution and refrain. Further, if healthcare professionals write
online about their professional experiences, they must be honest about their credentials
and reveal any conflicts of interest.
professionals are required at all times to follow the Medical Practice Act,
rules established by the Board, and professional standards of care. These obligations apply regardless of the medium
January 8, 2016