doctor limitations with social mediaAs a social media marketing agency for medical doctors and practices, we absolutely encourage the use of social media. Being active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and your blog will only help build your reputation and visibility online. However, you need to be wary of how you interact with patients online. We’ve talked about how Groupon, and other group discount sites, might violate “fee splitting” laws in certain states, but in this article I’d like to focus solely on doctor/patient interaction.

Keep in mind that when you read my blog articles you’ll often see my point out that one of the keys to social media success is interaction and Fan activity, and this is absolutely true. It’s just that for doctors you need to watch how you interact. Namely, you need to avoid giving out any medical advice online to patients.

Does this completely limit what you can post on social media? Absolutely not. You’re the expert, and you should use the various social media platforms to showcase this expertise and credibility. You simply need to be careful about responding to a patient’s question or comment. Just like if a patient emails you a medical question, you need to respond by asking them to schedule a consultation to discuss their question. Like any other business, there’s no such thing as free advice (unless they want to research your blog)!

Nearly 90% of physicians use social media for personal use, and over two-thirds of them use social media for business use. A recent study by UCSF found that of the 48 state medical boards polled, 44 had reported some violations of online professionalism.  The report included examples of doctors asking patients on dates, a doctor verbally insulting a patient on their blog, and a recording a video in the operating room (subsequently posted on YouTube), showing the patient’s face, without their consent. Another popular violation was the misrepresentation of one’s credentials.

All the aforementioned violations are pretty cut and dry. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon (or physician) to realize that you shouldn’t be exhibiting that kind of behavior! That being said, even well-intentioned interactions on Facebook can be violation. The simple rule of thumb is to never provide any individual analysis or diagnosis unless the patient is in your office.

If you have any questions about how to safely and effectively use social media to grow your medical practice, then leave Turbo a message here, or call us directly at 877-673-7096 x2.