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Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2012 May;470(5):1386-92. doi: 10.1007/s11999-011-2197-z.

Online professional networks for physicians: risk management.

Author information

  • 1hymanteam@gmail.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

The rapidly developing array of online physician-only communities represents a potential extraordinary advance in the availability of educational and informational resources to physicians. These online communities provide physicians with a new range of controls over the information they process, but use of this social media technology carries some risk.

QUESTIONS/PURPOSES:

The purpose of this review was to help physicians manage the risks of online professional networking and discuss the potential benefits that may come with such networks. This article explores the risks and benefits of physicians engaging in online professional networking with peers and provides suggestions on risk management.

METHODS:

Through an Internet search and literature review, we scrutinized available case law, federal regulatory code, and guidelines of conduct from professional organizations and consultants. We reviewed the OrthoMind.com site as a case example because it is currently the only online social network exclusively for orthopaedic surgeons.

RESULTS:

Existing case law suggests potential liability for orthopaedic surgeons who engage with patients on openly accessible social network platforms. Current society guidelines in both the United States and Britain provide sensible rules that may mitigate such risks. However, the overall lack of a strong body of legal opinions, government regulations as well as practical experience for most surgeons limit the suitability of such platforms. Closed platforms that are restricted to validated orthopaedic surgeons may limit these downside risks and hence allow surgeons to collaborate with one another both as clinicians and practice owners.

CONCLUSIONS:

Educating surgeons about the pros and cons of participating in these networking platforms is helping them more astutely manage risks and optimize benefits. This evolving online environment of professional interaction is one of few precedents, but the application of risk management strategies that physicians use in daily practice carries over into the online community. This participation should foster ongoing dialogue as new guidelines emerge. This will allow today's orthopaedic surgeon to feel more comfortable with online professional networks and better understand how to make an informed decision regarding their proper use.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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