Hospitals Take Note: 92% of States Report Online Violations by Physicians

flickr: Tim Morgan

Do you know what your physicians are saying online? According to a study published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 92% of state medical boards reported inappropriate online behavior by physicians.

The most common violations were inappropriate patient communication (69%), such as sexual misconduct, and the use of the Internet for inappropriate practice (63%), such as prescribing without a clinical relationship. Many of these online violations resulted in serious disciplinary actions, including license restriction, suspension or revocation.

Although professional organizations, such as the AMA have developed social media standards, the authors of the study (S. Ryan Greysen, MD, MHS, MA; Katherine C. Chretien, MD; Terry Kind, MD, MPH; Aaron Young, PhD; and Cary P. Gross, MD, MPH) noted that licensing authorities lack formal guidelines. They advocate for regulators and physicians to address online practices, and conclude, “our findings highlight the need to promote physician understanding and self monitoring of online professionalism and to create consensus-driven, broadly disseminated principles to guide physicians toward high-integrity interactions online.

90% of physicians use at least one social media site

Next month, the Federation of State Medical Boards will explore the issue at their annual meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. A panel discussion, “Social Networking and Online Professionalism: Is This the Future?” is on their agenda for Sat., April 28.

“The rise in social media has been so meteoric,” Gabriel Bosslet, MD, told the American Medical News in an article titled Nearly All US Doctors are on Social Media. Bosslet researched physician use of social media in 2010 and reported 42% of physicians were using social media, but a recent study published by QuantiaMD in September 2011 found 90% of physicians use at least one social media site.

This meteoric rise in physician social media use brings increased opportunities for positive online engagement, as well as online violations. Physicians’ social media use and misuse is an issue that has broad operational impact for hospitals. Proactive planning, including policy development and training, can help protect your physicians, patients and your hospital’s reputation.

If you’ve not been invited to a meeting to address this issue at your hospital, it may be time for you to call a meeting.


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Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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