The AMA this week released basic guidelines for physicians using social media. This is important because it represents the first time that a major physician organization here in the United States has stepped up to give physicians social direction. It raises the question: who will police physicians on social media?
This caught my eye:
When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.
This suggests that doctors need to be policing other doctors
I’d have to agree. If we don’t police ourselves, someone else will. Watching doctors adopt Twitter I’ve seen occasional HIPAA violations and other disclosures that, while technically HIPAA compliant, push the envelope of what doctors should be discussing in public.
But I have to admit that I feel uncomfortable @messaging a physician I may or may not know to tell them that what they’ve done is over the line. Not exactly the way to amass social currency. This sort of thing needs to happen collectively. Perhaps this will be easier once there is a true physician hive.
Defining professional social conduct
I’m probably over thinking this but I’m wondering whether the definition of professional conduct on social may be more difficult than it seems. ‘Normal and appropriate’ banter in social forums isn’t necessarily what we may hear in a clinic setting. While I would differ, I’m sure there are those who might identify my dialog as ‘unprofessional’ on occasion. So should a marginal tweet land me under review with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners?
Perhaps the definition of unprofessional conduct in social media might be like the dilemma of recognizing porn: hard to define but easy to identify.
It’s time for standards that go beyond bureaucracy
The AMA policy/guidelines, while basic, represent a big step for physicians who live and think in this space. We need to go further with more specific guidelines and examples for physicians-in-training and those new to all of this. I’m guessing that people who understand this stuff should be part of the equation. But the academic medical-industrial complex is a difficult lobby.
And we need to beware of social media rules made by doctors who have never played the game.