DOCTORS should apply old-fashioned “Wild West” principles when using social media such as Twitter and Facebook, according to new draft guidance from the RCGP.
Medical professionals should be guided by honesty, hospitality, fair play, loyalty, trust, consideration and respect in the same way as cowboys “in the frontier of the newly discovered Wild West”.
The advice is set out in the RCGP’s draft Social Media Highway Code which has just been published for consultation.
The code consists of 10 rules, which encourage doctors to be aware of the image they present online, recognise that the personal and professional can’t always be separated and to engage with the public but be cautious of giving personal advice.
It goes on to outline various other ways in which doctors can make use of social media while still maintaining professional boundaries. This includes respecting patient privacy and being aware that social media activity may be monitored by the media.
The code was written by various authors, including RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada, and was published due to the general lack of social media guidance for doctors. The General Medical Council is also working on similar guidance as part of its review of Good Medical Practice.
Dr Gerada, a keen Twitter user, told GP: “Social media will fundamentally change the way we interact with patients, for the better. These tools provide us with exciting and clever new opportunities to communicate with and help our patients, but we must also discuss how we balance the risks against the opportunities and encourage doctors to use them, and use them appropriately.”
Speaking about social media at the recent RCGP Annual Conference in Glasgow, she said doctors using social media should “respect your position, respect yourself and have fun.”