Some Physicians on Twitter may need Monitoring

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Physicians on Twitter research letter
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Some physicians who use Twitter may need monitoring for unethical and unprofessional content, suggests researchers at George Washington University.

A study shows some physicians are tweeting content that may be unethical. The findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest oversight might be needed to ensure physicians are using social media in a positive way.

Katherine Chretien., M.D., F.A.C.P., associate professor of Medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences who led a study suggests guidelines should be established and physicians should have more accountability.

The authors note, "The existence of social media is transforming the way physicians communicate with the public, bringing both challenges and opportunities for medical professionalism."

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In the study, three percent of 5156 tweets from 260 self-identified physicians contained either profanity, sexually explicit material, discriminatory remarks and potential patient privacy violations, occurring between May 1 and May 31, 2010.

Ten statements from doctors on Twitter contained medical information about therapies that could actually harm patients. The research letter also found that one percent of the physician tweets identified included health product promotions sold on their website and health product promotion.

“This research helped us to identify how physicians are using social media and has helped us gauge whether or not there is need for greater accountability for physicians who use social media,” said Dr. Chretien. “While the majority of tweets were potentially helpful, the ethical breaches and unprofessional content raised a red flag.”

The research showed some physicians using social media need oversight and might be out of line from unprofessional tweets, unethical remarks and repeated health product promotion. The research letter, titled “Physicians on Twitter", suggests more accountability is needed.

JAMA

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