Social media use poses professional risks for doctors

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Nov. 28, 2011

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Widespread use of social networking websites poses a challenge to doctors and physician trainees as the medical profession tries to define appropriate online behavior, says a study in the December issue of Academic Medicine (link).

Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults on the Internet use social networking websites. But for physicians, residents and medical students, using such websites creates a risk of blurring the lines between their personal and professional lives, the study said.

Study authors analyzed data from a June 2010 survey by the Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine. Of 82 medical school faculty members who responded, 63 (79%) said they thought it was inappropriate to send a friend request to a current student. Sixty-one respondents (76%) said it was inappropriate to accept a friend request from a student.

Forty-two faculty members (53%) said it was inappropriate to accept a friend request from a current resident.

Social networking connections with former students or residents was deemed more acceptable. For example, half of faculty members said they usually or always accept a friend request from a former student.

The study authors said more research is needed to help define professional online behavior.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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