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