Social media has seeped its ways into every facet of our lives of the last decade, even our jobs. The question then becomes, how much, if any, should doctors be using their platforms? And if so, how? Some could make the argument that, especially for private practice, it helps grow their customer base. Others would argue that it is not something to be promoted, and the patient’s confidentiality is at risk.
The benefits of posting on social media are evident in some respect. Doctors, physicians, and osteopaths, especially those who are paid on the amount they bill, can use social media to gain patients. A surgeon might consider whether they can post a surgery they did that day to promote themselves or even to provide teaching opportunities for young doctors. Doing so is dangerous – patient confidentiality laws go very deep, and Illinois law also prohibits the use of a person’s image without consent for commercial purposes. Know also that some health care professionals have been called before IDFPR professional boards to answer for their posting of x-rays and other imaging on social media, when the intent was only to show how ‘not to do’ a procedure.
Some physicians, especially those in residency, have been known to use their social media platform to vent. This can help with some of the problems that have been known to cause physician burnout. But the same rules apply, don’t post anything about your patients, with the caveat that your residency program may take issue with specific types of ‘venting.’
Further evidence that use of social media must be carefully considered is past lawsuits hinging on what someone has posted without thought. There have been cases where a resident physician has posted how excited they were and how much they loved their job on social media but at the same time saying they were discriminated against. The case ended up ruling against the resident because of their social media posts.
Physicians need to use their best judgment on how they handle what they post, but no one is perfect. People make mistakes all of the time, but this could end up with you having to defend your license in front of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. If a problem does arise, Williams & Nickl is here to help you get through that process and back on the right track. Our firm focuses on professional license defense of doctors, physicians, and osteopaths.