Professionalism in a Digital Age: Opportunities and Considerations for Using Social Media in Health Care

Since the beginning of the millennium, there has been a remarkable change in how people access and share information. Much of this information is content that is created by users and found on social media sites. As digital technologies and social media continue to expand, health care providers need to adapt their professional communication to meet the expectations and needs of consumers. This could include communication on social media sites. However, many health care providers express concerns that professional social media use, particularly interactions with patients, is ethically problematic. Social media engagement does not create ethical dissonance if best practices are observed and online communication adheres terms of service, professional standards, and organizational policy. A well-executed social media presence provides health care providers, including physical therapists, the opportunity – and perhaps a professional obligation – to use social media sites to share and/or create credible health care information, filling a consumer void for quality online information on fitness, wellness, and rehabilitation. This perspective provides a broad review of the emergence of social media in society and health care, investigates policy implications of organizational adoption of health care social media, and suggests individual opportunities and guidelines for social media use by the physical therapy professional.