A new survey of medical school deans finds that such unprofessional conduct - on blogs and social-networking sites - is increasing among medical students. Although med students fully understand patient confidentiality laws and are indoctrinated in the high ethical standards to which their white-coated profession is held, many of them still use Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and other sites to depict and discuss lewd behavior and sexual misconduct, make discriminatory statements, and discuss patient cases in violation of confidentiality laws, according to the survey published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Of the 80 medical school deans questioned, 60% reported incidents involving unprofessional postings, and 13% admitted to incidents that violated patient privacy.
There's no way technology alone can put an end to such stupidity: only education and policy enforcement can. To that end, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) this month developed a social media toolkit to help medical offices better deal with the explosion of social media, and how it impacts patient privacy.
"The expansion of social networking websites, like Facebook and Twitter, has forever changed the way everyone communicates in our personal and professional lives," said Richard R. Ellison, MD, president of the OSMA in a statement.
The toolkit, "Social Networking and Medical Practice: Guidelines for Physicians, Office Staff and Patients," provides insight into how physicians can better handle social media.
The toolkit provides a list to many social media "best practices" as well as a pair of sample social media policies that restrict or prohibit social media use at work.
Developed by the OSMA Legal Services Group, the social media toolkit is available at www.osma.org/socialmediapolicy (.pdf).
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