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Monday
Feb212011

Doctors Should Be Careful About What They Tweet

Photo Courtesy - Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Like everyone else these days, doctors are fans of social networking sites and the vast majority use them responsibly.

Still, a new study from George Washington School of Medicine and Health Science says a small number of physicians cross an ethical line that potentially endangers patients or puts their careers in jeopardy.

Checking out Twitter during May of 2010, Dr. Katherine Chretien and her staff examined more than 5,000 tweets from 260 licensed doctors with at least 500 followers.  In all, the researchers found that three percent of tweets were labeled “unprofessional,” which means they involved breaches of patient privacy along with profanity, sexually-explicit remarks and discriminatory statements.

If that wasn’t bad enough, another one percent of doctor tweets featured claims about a product they were selling on their individual websites that couldn’t be readily substantiated, as well as heavy promotion of other specific health products.  A few of these statements were considered potentially harmful because they contradicted acceptable medical knowledge.

Chretien concluded, “This research helped us to identify how physicians are using social media and has helped us gauge whether or not there is need for greater accountability for physicians who use social media.”

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