The Ithaca College MS-PAS Program supports the American Medical Association’s (AMA) opinion titled “Professionalism in the Use of Social Media”. The opinion has been quoted below with modifications to align with physician assistant education and practice. The Code of Medical Ethics opinion is available here.
The Internet has created the ability for physician assistant (PA) learners and PAs to easily communicate and share information with millions of people. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support a PAs personal expression, enable individual PAs to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, and provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communications. Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient- provider relationship. PAs should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:
(a) Physician Assistants should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.
(b) When using social media for educational purposes or to exchange information professionally with other PA’s, follow ethics guidance regarding confidentiality, privacy and informed consent.
(c) When using the internet for social networking, physician assistants should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, PA’s should routinely monitor their own internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
(d) If they interact with patients on the internet, PA’s must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-provider relationship in accordance with professional ethics guidance just as they would in any other context.
(e) To maintain appropriate professional boundaries PA’s should consider separating personal and professional content online.
(f) When physician assistants sees content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional, they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the PA should report the matter to appropriate authorities.
(g) PA’s must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physician assistant-in-training and medical students) and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.