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Legal and Ethical Implications of Your Doctor Tweeting The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) recently released a social media toolkit for doctors and their staff in an effort to assist practitioners in navigating the complicated world of social networking despite privacy laws, employment issues and doctor-patient confidentiality. While social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, have grown rapidly to now to more than 114 million users, the rules governing professionals, like doctors, still offer protections to patients in the online world. The social media toolkit offers doctors and other medical professionals with useful tips to follow when using social media, whether at home or at work, because, even off the clock, doctors are still subject to the same rules applicable to a hospital or medical treatment facility.

Doctors Must Follow Legal and Ethical Rules When Using Social Media OSMA acknowledged that social networking should be embraced as a powerful marketing tool, however, the same professional ethic laws apply to social media posts, statuses and tweets even though the communication is online rather than in person. A doctor who violates legal or ethical rules online can still be held responsible under the law and ethics rules. In rare serious cases, online comments and posts may even lead to license suspension. The most important OSMA guidelines explain possible consequences of "friending" a patient, providing medical advice online and sharing stories of recent medical cases. Examples of social networking actions that may create liability include the following as provided by OSMA: •

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Discussing a patient with another doctor online, either on Facebook or another networking site, such as Sermo: This could be problematic because there is no peer review, as there is with a published article. The online narrative can also raise issues of patient privacy, particularly if the patient is identifiable. Answering a medical question on Facebook: Offering medical advice online can open a doctor up to creating a physician-patient relationship. Once a physicianpatient relationship has been established, medical malpractice, HIPPA and patient abandonment issues may all arise.

Patients who are concerned about their doctor making remarks about their medical condition online can be assured that their rights are still protected. The advancements in online social media do not provide doctors an open forum to discuss personal and confidential details.


If you believe that your doctor may have violated your privacy or confidentiality rights online, you should contact a knowledgeable Ohio attorney. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer may also be able to assist you if you were given bad or unreliable medical advice online.

Legal and Ethical Implications of Medical Tweeting  

While social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, have grown rapidly to now to more than 114 million users, the rules g...

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