Entitled "Social Media as a Tool in Medicine" the review article in the current issue of Circulation, by authors Katherine Chretien, MD and Terry Kind, MD, MPH, presents a comprehensive overview of the ways social media are being used in clinical care, and discusses the potential ethical, professional and social implications of such engagement.
Through social media, patients, caregivers and family members find health information and support, and share experiences. For researchers, such communication has fuelled new ways of gathering health data (through sites like Patientslikeme and qualitative analysis of posts and discussions on Twitter, or on Facebook groups, for example). Likewise, physicians are using social networking to answer clinical questions, to access patient information to aid clinical care, and to connect with patients. As telemedicine has grown with the use of new technologies, there has been a growth of virtual clinics.
Ethical and professional implications pf physician use of social media for clinical care are discussed using the American Medical Association principles of medical ethics as a framework for discussion of the key issues. The article also briefly touches on legal implications of social media use in clinical care, beyond HIPAA and privacy law.
Social media offers many benefits for clinical practice and will increasingly be incorporated into health care. It is thus important that these issues be acknowledged, discussed, and understood by physicians and by patients and caregivers, as advocates and as participants in their care.