Medical practices should adhere to social media guidelines

There are both benefits and risks when it comes to social media for physicians and medical practices.

Physicians should educate themselves and follow social media guidelines to stay out of trouble, according to Physician's Money Digest. "Often, they don't know [the guidelines] exist," Kimberly Danebrock, R.N., senior risk management and patient safety specialist for the Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. told the publication. "We have all incorporated [social media technology] so much into our lives but we were never taught in healthcare how to manage the technology."

She advises that every medical practice have a social media policy and that physicians and staff are both educated about the dos and don'ts of using social media.

The Federation of State Medical Boards is one group that has developed some guidelines for the appropriate use of social media and networking for medical practices.

Not only should physicians be concerned about protecting patient privacy on social media, but they also need to be sure they present a professional image in the online world, according to a report on JDSupra Business Advisor. Social media can also blur the line in the doctor-patient relationship, as FiercePracticeManagment previously reported.

But as much as social media can raise new issues for physicians, it can have unexpected benefits for patients. A new study by researchers at the University of Leicester in England found that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms can be useful for helping patients with rare medical diseases exchange knowledge and build communities, according to a university announcement.

"Not only is patients' knowledge valuable for peer support within patient communities, it has the potential to add to traditional medical knowledge, especially in cases where this is limited -- such as in the case of rare diseases,"  lead author Stefania Vicari, Ph.D., from the university's department of media and communication, said in the announcement.

To learn more:
- read the Physician's Money Digest article
- check out the article from JDSupra Business Advisor
see the university's announcement
- find the study