Physicians’ online behavior warrants investigation

January 21, 2013

State medical boards have a high consensus regarding the likelihood of investigations for some online behaviors by physicians, according to a recent study.

 

State medical boards have a high consensus regarding the likelihood of investigations for some online behaviors by physicians, according to a recent study.

Researchers at University of California, San Francisco, provided 10 hypothetical vignettes for 48 state medical boards regarding the potential for investigations for online professionalism violations, according to the study abstract.

For four of the vignettes there was a high consensus for the likelihood of investigation, including: providing misleading information about clinical outcomes, at 81 percent; using patient images without consent, 79 percent; contacting patients inappropriately, 77 percent; and misrepresenting credentials, 77 percent.

For three vignettes, there was moderate consensus: depicting alcohol intoxication, 73 percent; violating patient confidentiality, 65 percent; and using discriminatory speech, 60 percent.

“Our findings underscore the need for more continuing education of physicians in practice about potential interpretations and consequences of online actions so that their social media presence can be a professional benefit instead of a liability,” study authors concluded.

The study was published Jan. 15 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.