Monday, January 31, 2011

Facebook and Doctor-Patient Relations

As of January 2011, Facebook has over 600 million active users. This breaks down to an average of at least 1 in 12 people in the world have a Facebook account. With these odds, it's inevitable that the paths of patients and doctors should eventually intersect on Facebook.

A real dilemma has arisen:
Patients have found their physicians on Facebook and have requested to be friends with them.

Because of the personal information that can be found on Facebook, it seems intuitive that a doctor should not accept a friend request from a patient. But with no hard and fast guidelines, what is a doctor to do? Facebook reveals too much of what is personal and private that a physician, and a patient, would not particularly want to know about the other.

In the past two years, there have been a few opinion pieces published in medical journals addressing the issue of whether or not doctors should accept patients' friend requests:

As of November 2010, the Australian Medical Association and their related Australian and New Zealand associations are in the forefront of setting guidelines for physician use of social networking sites such as Facebook.

[View the guidlelines at].

This initiative was in response to the fact that some physicians have posted negative comments and even the names of some of their patients on Facebook. This clearly crosses the boundaries of professionalism. These opinion pieces and guidelines should set the stage for active discussion in the medical profession and medical schools of how physicians should or should not interact within the world of social media. Feel free to put in your two cents in the comments section below.

The American Medical Association actually does have a short statement on their website about professionalism and social media. Check it out at


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