Massachusetts Medical Society: Social Media Guidelines for Physicians

Social Media Guidelines for Physicians

Adopted by the MMS House of Delegates in May 2011, and updated Dec. 2015:

  1. Carefully planned and professionally executed participation in social media by physicians is professionally appropriate, and can be an effective method to connect with colleagues, advance professional expertise, educate patients, and enhance the public profile and reputation of our profession. 
  2. Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must not post any content that could be used to directly or indirectly reveal a patient’s identity.
  3. Physicians must recognize that personal and professional online content can have a significant impact on public trust in the medical profession, both positively and negatively. The content that physicians post online may also influence their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may have consequences for their medical careers, particularly for physicians in training and medical students.
  4. When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, it is highly likely that content will remain there indefinitely, and may reach a wider audience than intended. Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  5. If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines, just as they would in any other context.
  6. To maintain appropriate professional boundaries, it is recommended that physicians separate personal and professional content online, where technically feasible. Physicians should accept patient online invitations to connect only on a physician's professional or a practice’s social media account, and should not accept invitations from patients to connect on their personal accounts.
  7. Physicians' existing professional responsibility to hold their colleagues to account for maintaining the profession's code of ethics (e.g., AMA position on the necessity of reporting a colleague’s unethical conduct) extends to behavior in online communities. Thus, when physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional, they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.
  8. Physicians must disclose all relationships they have with regard to the maker or provider of products and services they review or discuss in online communities. This includes discussions and reviews of products and services provided to the physician for free.

Download the original 2011 report. (.pdf, 12 pages)

Share on Facebook

MMS Awards Program

The Society is proud to sponsor a number of prestigious awards to highlight and recognize outstanding contributions to the health and well-being of patients in the Commonwealth, throughout the country, and around the world.

Read More »

PIAM the Insurance Agency of the Massachusetts Medical Society

Boston Medical Library

Boston Medical LibraryMembers have access to the Waltham branch of the Boston Medical Library and the Countway Library of Medicine in Boston.

Read More »

Physician Health Services

PHS provides confidential consultation and support to physicians, residents, and medical students facing concerns related to: alcoholism, substance abuse, behavioral or mental health issues and physical illness. 

Learn More »

Facebook logoTwitter logoLinkedInYouTube logoInstagram

Copyright © 2020. Massachusetts Medical Society, 860 Winter Street, Waltham Woods Corporate Center, Waltham, MA 02451-1411

(781) 893-4610 | (781) 893-3800 | Member Information Hotline: (800) 322-2303 x7311