Study Characterizes Online Physician Behaviors Likely to Draw an Investigation

January 16, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Health System


More continuing education is needed to instruct physicians about the possible interpretations and consequences of their actions on the Internet so that their social media presence can be a professional benefit instead of a liability, concludes a study published in the January 15, 2013, Annals of Internal Medicine. The study, which surveyed 70 state medical and osteopathic boards responsible for licensure and discipline of physicians in the United States, asked participants to assess 10 hypothetical vignettes of online physician behavior and classify each based on its likelihood of triggering an investigation and possible sanctions. The themes of four of the online vignettes demonstrated high consensus for triggering an investigation. These included citing misleading information about clinical outcomes (81%), using patient images without consent (79%), misrepresenting credentials (77%), and inappropriately contacting patients (77%). Three themes demonstrated moderate consensus for investigation, including depicting alcohol intoxication (73%), violating patient confidentiality (65%), and using discriminatory speech (60%).

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