In the past, I have written about the dangers that participating in social media can present to medical professionals (August 23, 2012 post “Social Media Can be a Dangerous Pastime for Medical Professionals”). The resignation of General David Petraeus yet again demonstrates that the digital age presents significant perils to those individuals who ignore or attempt to circumvent the appropriate use of such media.
I found it interesting that it has been reported that General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell allegedly wrote emails in “draft”, left the drafts in a draft email folder which they could both access and read, but did not send to each other, thereby attempting to avoid creating a trail of emails.
Engaging in social media creates a trail that can be used by employers, governmental agencies, criminal investigators, and State licensing boards as evidence of wrongdoing. When a professional, like a physician, engages in email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or other forms of social media with patients, they risk being determined to have committed a boundary violation with a patient. A physician may not engage in a personal, sexual, or financial relationship with a patient.
In the past, these relationships were more difficult for employers or governmental agencies to prove because, in many instances, cases came down to a “he said – she said” situation. However, in the digital age, impermissible relationships are documented in emails, texts, photos, videos, Facebook posts, and Tweets.
It is a violation of the State Medical Board of Ohio’s laws and rules to engage in a personal, sexual, intimate, or financial relationship with a patient. Such relationships subject a physician to discipline by the Board.