The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) recently adopted model policy guidelines for the appropriate use of social media and social networking in a medical practice. The model policy guidelines can be viewed here. In its findings, the FSMB reports that 67 percent of 4,000 physicians surveyed use social media for professional purposes and that research indicates 35 percent of practicing physicians have received friend requests from a patient or member of their family, and 16 percent of practicing physicians have visited an on line profile of a patient or patient’s family member. This growing on-line connection between doctors and patients requires doctors and their employers to enact policies to ensure compliance with professional, legal, and ethical standards.

The guidelines also point to model social media policies that have been published by the American Medical Association, the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic. Other professionals, including lawyers, and their employers can also benefit from consideration of the issues raised by the FSMB’s guidelines.