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Is Your Doctor On Facebook?

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You’ve heard countless stories of indiscreet photos or stories finding their way onto Facebook. Many employers use Facebook as an impromptu way of checking into the backgrounds of perspective hires. So what’s the big deal of your doctor being on Facebook. Would you think of him or her differently if you found a photo or story that was different than the way you thought? Would you even change doctors?

The New York Times posed this question to doctors this week and got a number of interesting responses.

Is posting a medical musing or details of a recent party on Twitter or Facebook the same as chatting with colleagues while walking down the hall of the hospital? Do the same rules of etiquette and liability apply to this extremely public environment?

Here’s an example posted in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

A doctor posted photos of himself and his colleagues partying on his Facebook page. These were aid doctors providing medical care in Haiti, and the unprofessional images of drinking, carousing and posing with guns cast a bad light on their medical work.

One doctor suggested “violations of professionalism online are no different than violations in ‘real life’ and could be sanctioned by state medical boards.”

If you found your doctor in those photos, what would you think?

Dr. Kevin Pho, a primary care doctor in New Hampshire who writes the popular KevinMD blog, has both a personal and a professional online presence. His professional Facebook page contains his writing and commentary and can be “liked” by anyone. He limits access to his personal Facebook page to family and close friends.

Dr. Pho points out social media “can be an effective tool to guide patients to reputable sources of information,” countering the deluge of bad health information on the Internet.

Have you checked to see if your doctor is on Facebook? Would it matter to you?

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