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Professionalism in the Use of Social Media

  1. The North Carolina Medical Society supports physician participation in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities that create avenues for personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, and provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages.
  2. The North Carolina Medical Society supports the use of social networking by physicians, provided that such activity follows certain standards:
    • Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.
    • 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, content is likely there permanently. 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, contents posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
    • 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.
    • To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.
    • When physicians see content posted by colleagues that is obviously unprofessional, such as the disclosure of identifiable patient information or displays that undermine societal trust in the profession of medicine, 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.
    • Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.

(Report F-2011, adopted as amended, 10/23/2011)
(reaffirmed, Board Report-2018, Item 43, adopted 11/3/2018)