I was listening to a morning radio talk show and the hosts brought up the topic of being friends with their physician on Facebook and other social media. They were discussing how they were friends with their physician and how they often confided in their physician as a friend, and not only as a patient. One of the other hosts of the show asked them if they asked questions about their medical issues to their physician using these social media outlets. This topic made me think because as a medical student, my first impression was that I would not want to be friends with my patients on social media as a future physician. The names on my social media outlets right now are not my actual names to prevent patients and other healthcare professionals in the hospital from looking me up anywhere. I feel that as physicians, we should have a strict boundary between patient-physician relationships. Not only is it the responsible route to take, it maintains our ethical duties as physicians to maintain that boundary. Having a personal relationship outside of the clinic can pose many issues and can cause complications ethically.
Some ways that we can maintain these boundaries as future physicians are to keep our social media presences private. Using different names or middle/maiden names on social outlets is highly recommended among the medical professional community to maintain a level of privacy. If patients ask in consultations if they can connect socially, letting them know that you don’t have an account or that it’s unethical to give it out is another option. If a patient needs to contact you after-hours, you can give them your business card with the office number on it, and they can speak to a physician on-call or leave a message for you.