Social media can be a dangerous pastime for medical professionals

You have probably seen the “news” reports in the past two days of a naked Prince Harry having a good time in Las Vegas. These clandestine photos were obviously taken when Prince Harry believed that  he was in a private setting. However, they were secretly released to the press and quickly went viral to the great embarrassment of the Royal Family.

You may wonder what this has to do with physicians and the medical profession? We are now in a world where virtually everyone is carrying a camera/video camera on their phones with the ability to take and upload photos and videos to the internet and to the world in moments.  Behaviour that professionals may have engaged in that they thought was private may now be published to the world.

I have not seen a case yet where the Ohio Medical Board uses video footage of a physician “acting badly” as evidence of impairment or inability to practice medicine, however, in my opinion it is just a matter of time. Physicians need to be aware that the Medical Board can take an action against a physician for their conduct, even if it is not related to the practice of medicine. You do not need to be “falling down drunk” at work to be disciplined by the Medical Board. A photo or video of you clearly impaired at a bar taken at 2am when you are scheduled for surgery at 7am could serve as the basis for discipline.

Social media can also be evidence of a boundary violation with a patient. Do you “friend” patients on Facebook? Do you have photos of yourself and a patient taken in social settings? These could all constitute boundary violations with patients.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to reconnect with old friends and to share photos with family members and friends. But, it can also lead to trouble for professionals if not used wisely. As physicians, your conduct needs to be professional 24/7.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the State Medical Board in general, please feel to contact me at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

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