'Friends' on Facebook?
I remember the day I joined Facebook. I was a college sophomore, and I signed up as soon as the service became "available" to my college. I've seen it evolve from a college time waster to a useful tool in the business world. It's not just for college kids anymore: it's important, especially for my generation, to remember Facebook is a place for high school buddies, sorority sisters, colleagues, potential employers and your parents alike. In fact, last week I noticed Facebook suggested I add a new friend--my high school friend's grandma.
But one major caveat to Facebook: people you may not want to be "friends" with can find you. A handful of my friends are teachers, and a lot of them chose to go by their first and middle names on Facebook, so their students (and their parents) won't try to "friend" them.
The same awkward encounter could happen if one of your patients tried to "friend" you on Facebook. Sometimes you just absolutely hit it off with the person you're performing a blood draw on, and think you might want to get to know them better. In this day and age, for many that means ‘friending' them on Facebook."
The key here isn't to get rid of your Facebook profile, if it's something you enjoy in your personal time or has helped you professionally; it's to make sure you are taking advantage of Facebook's privacy settings and proper ethical boundaries.
In November, the American Medical Association (AMA) released a set of recommendations on how physicians can professionally use social media (and these guidelines can apply to anyone in healthcare).
The AMA recognizes how having a Facebook account can boost a professional presence, and also "foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession." Facebook is also a way to disseminate health information.
The AMA suggestions include, obviously, never mentioning any identifiable patient information online. Along with using privacy settings, the AMA also recommends physicians separate their personal and professional content.
If healthcare professionals interact with patients using social media, they should use the ethics they would employ in any other kind of patient-medical professional relationship.
Are you on Facebook? (If you are, check out ADVANCE's page here.) Do you use it professionally, personally or both? Have you had any patient interaction on any form of social media? Share your thoughts with your colleagues here!