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American guidelines for the use of social media by physicians impractical

American guidelines for the use of social media by physicians impractical

Three American ethics and psychiatry experts from Johns Hopkins University argue that the social media guidelines for physicians lead to an identity crisis. This viewpoint was published online on August 13, in the journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the guidelines, including the ones released by the American College of Physicians and Federation of State Medical Boards, physicians need to separate their personal from their professional identity on social media. The three authors, Matthew DeCamp, MD PhD, Thomas Koenig, MD, and Margaret Chisolm, MD, argue that this is impossible. “Professional identity is a component of personal identity, much as a person can identify both as a colleague and parent in different contexts,” says Chisolm, a professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

The authors maintain that the guidelines focus too much on whether or not the physician’s social media content is personal or professional. Instead the guidelines should focus on the question of what is appropriate for physicians to share in the public realm.

The guidelines’ negative consequences

The authors warn physicians of the dangers of adhering to the guidelines and thus ‘depersonalize’ their identity online. Among these dangers are reducing trusts in physicians when it appears they are trying to hide something or the increasing stress in patients when they perceive an answer given by a physician to be impersonal or unsympathetic.

New forum

The three authors also see the advantages of social media. “Social media presents an opportunity for physicians to connect with their community, and they can maintain an appropriate professional identity while doing so by keeping in mind they are speaking in a public forum. So rather than something completely novel, social media is simply a new forum for professional conduct in public, which physicians negotiate all the time,” DeCamp says.

Read the full article here 

Sources: Healthcare IT news, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

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