03 November 2011
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Q. Are there risks for doctors in using Facebook and Twitter?

A. The British Medical Association (BMA) has published guidance for doctors and medical students on using social media.

The key points, taken from the BMA publication, are:

  • Social media can blur the boundary between an individual's public and professional life
  • Doctors and medical students should consider adopting conservative privacy settings where available, but be aware that not all information can be protected on the web
  • The ethical and legal duty to protect patient confidentiality applies equally on the internet as in other media
  • It would be inappropriate to post informal, personal or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues on public internet forums
  • Doctors and medical students who post online have an ethical obligation to declare any conflicts of interest
  • The BMA recommends that doctors and medical students should not accept Facebook friend requests from current or former patients
  • Defamation law can apply to any comments posted on the web, made in either a personal or professional capacity
  • Doctors and medical students should be conscious of their online image and how it may impact on their professional standing.
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