Online medical professionalism: patient and public relationships

User-created content and communications on Web-based applications, like networking sites, media sharing sites, or blog platforms, have gone up substantially in popularity over the past several years, but there has not been much policy or guidance on the best practices to inform standards for the professional conduct of physicians in the digital environment. Areas of particular concern include the use of such media for nonclinical purposes, implications for confidentiality, the use of social media in patient education, and how all of this affects the public’s faith in physicians as patient-physician exchanges spread out into the digital environment. Opportunities presented by online applications represent a new frontier in medicine as physicians and patients become more connected.

This position paper from the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards examines and provides suggestions about the influence of social media on the patient-physician relationship, the part these media play in public perception of physician behaviors, and strategies for physician-physician communication that maintain confidentiality while best using these technologies.