Social media: the way forward or a waste of time for physicians?

J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2013;43(4):318-22. doi: 10.4997/JRCPE.2013.411.


Social media is everywhere; its use has grown exponentially over recent years. The prevalence of these outlets for communication raises some interesting and potentially risky issues for physicians. On the one hand, some believe that physicians should have a strong social media presence and can benefit greatly from access to a global community of peers and leaders through blogs, online forums, Facebook, Twitter and other communication channels. Dr Anne Marie Cunningham provides a strong case for the advantages of developing networks and figuring out who and what to pay attention to online. On the other hand however, others believe that the use of social media places doctors at a professional and ethical risk and is essentially a waste of time for the already time-pressured physician. Professor DeCamp argues that the risks of social media outweigh their benefits. It makes it more difficult to maintain a distinction between private and professional personas, and as we have seen, one mistyped or inappropriate comment can have potentially negative consequences when taken out of context. With an already time-pressured day, the priority should be patients, not tweets. Whatever your thoughts on the benefits and risks of social media, it is here to stay. Specific guidelines and guidance are needed to ensure that physicians who decide to join an online community reap the benefits of global communication, rather than regret it.

Keywords: Social media; ethics; physician-patient relationship; professionalism.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians*
  • Professional Role
  • Social Media* / ethics