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Is It Ever OK for Doctors to Ask Patients Out Online?

Has your doctor ever asked you out on a date online?

Sounds like a joke, but apparently it’s happening. A recent report published by the Journal of American Medical Association finds that asking patients out online is the most common doctor violation.

“Doctors are contacting patients on Internet dating sites and engaging in other unprofessional behavior – and sometimes getting caught.”

Some would argue, “They’re people too. They’re entitled to having a private life.” But as with most relationships ‘it’s complicated’. For example in a 2012 Medscape Ethics Survey, physicians were asked whether it is ever acceptable “to become involved in a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient.” 68% said no, 1% said yes, 22% said maybe, and 9% said it depends.

Doctors need to be very cautious about "friending" their patients

Doctors need to be very cautious about “friending” their patients

Physician, behave thyself!

The American College of Physicians says that doctors who use social media should proceed with caution and has published these guidelines to minimize engagement risk and to help them behave in a professional manner online:

  • Don’t “friend” your patients on social media
  • Don’t text patients about medical issues unless the patient has said you can
  • Create a professional profile that will show up first on search instead of results from a physician ranking site in order to control your image
  • Read more recommendations here.

Social media is a great tool for enhancing doctor-patient interactions. However as it becomes more popular with the public and with the medical community, doctors will have to be super careful that their positive engagement with patients does not cross the line.

Your Turn

What do you think? How should doctors and patients relate online?

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