The following Statement on Social Media was developed by the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS). The ACS Board of Regents approved the statement at its October 2017 meeting in San Diego, CA.
Social media has become a part of many physicians’ lives and is increasingly used professionally for networking, research, and marketing. Along with the ability to instantly reach large professional and lay public audiences, there are ethical and legal challenges that must be considered. The RAS-ACS reviewed existing guidelines regarding social media use by physicians and synthesized practical advice for surgeons. The recommendations encourage the appropriate use of social media while considering shared personal information and principles of professionalism and privacy. Social media, used for education and professional interaction, are valuable when used effectively.
The following are recommendations for social media use:
- Do not use social media as a tool for patient-physician communication.
- Always protect all patients’ confidentiality.
- Be aware of social media policies set by employers and practices.
- Avoid posting content that may have negative or unintended consequences in the workplace.
- Avoid online discussions or posts that could be associated with financial conflicts of interest.
- Avoid defamatory statements that damage the reputation of the subject/patient.
- Posted content can be expected to be available to anyone in perpetuity.
- Notify colleagues whose social media conduct may be unprofessional or inappropriate.
- Actively maintain a professional online profile.
- Extend traditional expectations of professionalism to online behavior, content, and engagement.