Med Schools lack of policies for facebook and twitter use

Social media are changing medicine. On social networking sites patients may learn information about their doctors, medical students that compromises the professional relationship. Threats to patient confidentiality is another danger of Facebook and other social networking sites. But how big is the problem and if med schools are on social media sites do they have a policy for their med students and staff for using these sites such as Facebook and twitter?

Well from this recent study the results tell us that med schools and med students use social media websites a lot. Few of them have adequate policies announced about how to use these social media such as facebook and twitter. Want some examples? Centers for disease control and prevention on facebook, Surgeon General David Satcher on facebook. More important is what’s the best policy. From this study two kinds of policies were found, from stringent prohibitions to reflective questions. This recent publication has an excellent table with links to the sites with policies and a short description of the policy.

Now for the numbers.

  • Of 132 United States medical schools at the time of this study, 100% had websites.
  • 95.45% (126/132) of medical schools had any presence on Facebook, including pages for that medical school or current student or alumni groups from that medical school
  • 71.21% (94/132) of medical schools had current student groups on Facebook and 54.55% (72/132) had alumni groups
  • 42.42% (56/132) had at least one Facebook page for the medical school
  • 10.6% (14/132) of medical schools had Twitter accounts such that the name or bio on Twitter specifically indicated that the account was for the medical school
  • Only 13 of the 128 medical schools (10.2%) had guidelines and/or policies that explicitly mentioned social media or online social networking

Almost all med schools are on facebook and use social media, most do not have policies addressing student online social networking behavior. From table 1 you can see a shortened version of most policies, an excellent beginning for developing one.
Terry Kind,, Gillian Genrich,, Avneet Sodhi,, & Katherine C. Chretien4 (2010). Social media policies at US medical schools Medical Education Online : 10.3402/meo.v15i0.5324.