Institutions are looking for rules to govern how doctors should behave using public digital media. When I’m asked about rules I usually suggest that we start by referencing the standard manual of physician behavior. That, of course, gives us a nice place to start.
But certainly there are agreed upon guidelines that direct a physician’s conduct with everyday situations? There must be rules that guide the handling of patients who approach us in the grocery store? If I remember correctly the Federation of State Medical Boards issued specific, bulleted recommendations on how a physician should interact with patients who they know in their church or synagogue. And there must be specific guidelines on the appearance of alcohol consumption in public. Inappropriate communication with patients using the telephone or U.S. Postal Service has been addressed with firm consensus by the AMA, I’m sure.
The specific rules of countless day-to-day situations were never before spelled out in guidelines and policies. The subtleties of our conduct and reactions to situations were shaped by modeling, personal judgment and the standards of our respective communities.
We used to be smart. Or at least we gave physicians more credit. We understood that some things are better left to communities rather than regulatory bodies.
I looked for formal, published guidance on how I should behave. This 1927 essay from the Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine was all I could find.