Sunday, November 14, 2010

The American Medical Association's (AMA) prescription for social media

The American Medical Association (AMA) and its journal (JAMA) is one of the most respected health institutions in the country.  Yet, recently its most read work goes beyond the bounds of medical discovery.  The association has adopted a new policy on professionalism when using social media. The policy, announced during the AMA's semi-annual policymaking meeting in San Diego, aims to help physicians maintain a positive online presence and preserve the integrity of the patient-physician relationship.

To quote the AMA: “Using social media can help physicians create a professional presence online, express their personal views and foster relationships, but it can also create new challenges for the patient-physician relationship. The AMA’s new policy outlines a number of considerations physicians should weigh when building or maintaining a presence online.”

Of course, medical groups, insurance companies and other providers have to be extra careful in their highly regulated arena.  HIPAA rules must be maintained.  Patient/Provider confidentiality should always be kept.  There are, however, great services provided via social networking.  I've written before about the CDC's use of social media to get out information about H1N1 controls.  I'm working with a physician who wants to use a blog and updates to educate people about new findings and new journal articles.

The new policy adopted by the AMA encourages physicians to:

  • Use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the fullest extent possible on social networking sites;
  • Monitor their own internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their sites, and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate;
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality is maintained;
  • Consider separating personal and professional content online; and
  • Recognize that actions online and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.

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