Beware Social Media’s Pitfalls

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , November 13, 2012

"It is increasingly becoming difficult to separate your personal and professional lives online, despite how you may try," Vartabedian says. But we all must realize that anything we post on Facebook, no matter how limited its scope to a restricted set of friends, "lives on at the pleasure of the person who receives it."

Vartabedian also points out that clinicians "are still way worse in the elevator than we are online" about revealing PHI, and remember than anything overheard there is Twitter fodder.

Speaking to the great responsibility point, Vartabedian contends physicians are complicit in the controversy surrounding the unproven, but social media-fueled association between the MMR vaccine and autism. "There are 65,000 pediatricians in the American Academy of Pediatrics," he says.

"If all of us just once a year had created a small piece of content, be it a blog post, even a comment, we would have ruled the search engines, and none of this really ever would have happened."

"When we think about social media, and when your institution talks to you about social media, almost invariably it will be viewed from the perspective of risk. All we see is the risk associated with it, and all your orientation and your programs, everything will center on risk and nothing will center on opportunity."

As a way forward, Vartabedian is working with the AAMC in the early stages of developing a toolkit to improve social media training in medical schools. If you are interested in helping him, please contact the AAMC.

Scott Mace is senior technology editor at HealthLeaders Media.
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