Doctors Joining the Digital Age of Social Media

Doctors Joining the Digital Age of Social Media… But Should They?

By Dawn Cranfield

Doctors Joining the Digital Age of Social Media… But Should They?

Remember when a trip to the doctor was a personal experience between you and your physician and you could rest assured anything you said to him was going to be kept confidential?  Those were the days when your physician could also feel confident that if he was a “he” then he could give a woman her gynecological examination without the necessity of a “witness” in the room.  However, those days are long gone and, like so many other professions, healthcare and those at the heart of the business are growing up in a digital age where communication is truncated to 140 characters or to a string of letters and numbers.

While some may be totally stoked (okay, I may be dating myself here) about the idea of communicating with their physician via Facebook, email, or text, industry professionals are warningDoctors Joining the Digital Age of Social Media… But Should They? doctors to use extreme caution when moving forward with the practice.

The latest guidelines urge doctors not to connect with patients on Facebook under any circumstances, they recommend using email only with those who understand the potential loss of privacy, and they go on to say they should use “extreme caution” if they make the decision to text a patient.  Texting and email are not secure and a physician has no way to determine who is picking up those messages.

However, the experts responsible for the guidelines at the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Boards believe there is a benefit for the digital connection between doctor and patient.


Humayun Chaudhry is the President and CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB)  is in favor of more physicians using social media, “Used appropriately, a doctor’s professional Facebook page or blog can provide a wealth of information to patients, including links to reputable health websites and the doctor’s take on health stories that are in the news. Doctors also need to use e-mail and other forms of personal electronic communication, because that’s where the patients are.” (

Still, the group does warn doctors to use the practice with caution and maintain their professionalism with patients.  They advise them against posting pictures of themselves on vacation or at parties drinking or with scantily clad friends; a good idea for everyone wanting to maintain a professional image.

Another risk involved for doctors is for the potential to either inadvertently or intentionally offer medical advice, over the internet.  A well-intentioned or inexperienced physician may find themselves at the center of controversy or inundated with further questions.

fagIn the end, I can understand that doctors are younger and have grown up with an iPhone in their hands (they were probably handed one at birth), they no doubt tweeted their MCAT scores to one another, but I cannot get over the thought of my doctor texting me, “RU OK?”

Source Article

11 Responses to "Doctors Joining the Digital Age of Social Media"

  1. Mike   April 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Doctors will fair well to keep their personal Facebook profile private and only accesible to select individuals such as family just like the rest of us. For professional purposes they should create a professional Facebook page that will enable them to engage with patients in a HIPAA compliant manner. It will also serve as a terrific resource for patients as well as enhanced shareable marketing for the practice.

    • dawn7   April 19, 2013 at 4:14 pm


      I have a Facebook page, and the only thing on it is my stories from The Guardian Express. I have a few “likes” and they are all related to stories I have covered. In this day and age, the exposure is not worth the risk.

      However, as I did not grow up in the digital age, I did not have to learn my lesson the hard way. I think it is tougher to sell that idea to the younger crowd.

      Thank you for your input.

      Always, Dawn

  2. Trent Landers   April 14, 2013 at 8:59 am

    If anyone thinks that your medical information has been confidential all these years you are foolishly mistaken. There is a registry called the Medical Information Bureau that has been in existence at least 30 years that has collected all sorts of information for the insurance industries. Let’s say you went in for a lab test and gave a urine specimen for insurance on your home in case you became incapacitated or died and you wanted your mortgage payments to be continued. That urine specimen’s result say…borderline diabetes, was logged at the Medical Information Bureau. Most likely you were denied insurance on that result, even though you may have cheated and NOT fasted as required before the test. Or what happened to me: in applying for insurance, I was required to submit a urine sample. I had, as luck would have it, a severe infection that was being treated. My white blood cell count was very high. My insurance was denied on this test result. These records must be expunged every 7 years and I got a call from the MIB, where the telephone MIB representative actually told me that she was calling to see if I had passed on!!! or if I had recovered from my infection. I said to her, “…well it’s obvious isn’t it?”, at which point she made me verify my information that the insurance company had taken from me during collection of the urine sample to make sure I was the same applicant as was talking to her on the telephone (yes, it does sound strange that an insurance representative would watch me pee into a cup in a public restroom but it happened). Now do you really think that this information was only given out to insurance companies and not potential employers (gotta keep those medical benefit costs down) and others that would gain from knowing your medical information? The only thing that has changed is now you can bring it up on a computer if you have the right information. Big brother will always be with us until as a society in mass we question ALL authority and take the time to ask who gets this information that I am giving you (the corporate representative) and what are my appeal rights if a result is not what I believe it should be? Then you need to get ready for the legal run around the corporate worker bees give you to keep you from the truth. Orwell’s 1984 is here in spades.

  3. Jon   April 14, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I’ve been in practice for about 25 years. The hospital, and every health care provider, must adhere to federal government guidelines of patient confidentiality. Only hospital approved electronic devices that are appropriately encrypted may be used to access, store or communicate ANY information concerning the medical care of EVERY patient. I can lose my license to practice medicien, be sued for malpractice and have my career ended by violating those confidentiality rules. The idea of using a social media web site like Facebook to communicate this information is absurd and would result in immediate suspension of my hospital priviledges. Some private physicians offices do use encrypted, password protected internet communication to interact with patients; not Facebook or Twitter. Your simplistic overview of this needs a dose of federal government reality. The same gigantic, intrusive, overbearing, often useless, overly complex, filled with traps and gotcha’s, everpresent inspectors with no practical healthcare experience and a clipboard that we face.

  4. Homer Simpson   April 14, 2013 at 7:50 am

    “Another risk involved for doctors is for the potential to either inadvertently or intentionally, over the internet.”

    Dear lord, please hire another proofreader

    • dawn7   April 14, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Thank you for pointing out the error. Looking back, it was in the original article. My mouse often sticks when I am copying and pasting and it selects sections of text, often “catching” and inadvertently deleting it.

      I appreciate you pointing out the mistake.

      I know how frustrating those online grammatical errors can be.

      Thanks again for being my secondary eyes this morning.

      Always, Dawn


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.