What are the Effects of Social Media on the Patient-Physician Relationship?

Between my professional and personal social media accounts, I spend a fair amount of time connecting with and learning about people. And with the amount of access I have to the lives of others, sometimes I wonder if we are “too connected.” I read an article this morning on Medpage Today titled “Most Docs Would Decline Patients’ ‘Friend’ Requests.”

The article discussed the use of Facebook by physicians and included the results from a survey of residents and fellows at a French hospital, saying that of the 73% who use social networking tools, 85% would automatically decline friendship requests from patients.
I think this is a particularly interesting topic because social networking is so widely spread. It seems like everyone is participating in social networking. I mean, just a few months ago, my grandmother requested me to be her friend!

The bigger idea that this article brings up for me is the fact that as social media participants, that we may be too connected. I was relieved to see that 85% of the residents and fellows surveyed said they would automatically decline friend requests from their patients. But in reality, I wish the percentage was 100.

I definitely understand the value of a physician having a Twitter account, or a Facebook page for their practice. It’s a smart business move. But that’s all it should be – a business tool. When social media starts to cross the boundary from professional to personal, I think it’s gone too far.

The reason I believe this is because while a patient-physician relationship should be a friendly one, it is based on being professional. When you visit your doctor, you are seeking advice and their help. And when you have access to more personal information, such as family vacation photos, their social calendar and even personal photos, I think that professional boundary has been breached.

But this is just what I think. I want to know what you think. Do you believe social media, or Facebook specifically, has the potential to blur the lines of the typical patient-physician relationship? And do you view that as a positive or negative thing?

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