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So You've Decided to Tweet

As the new medical-academic year begins, I'm guessing a bunch of new interns will learn about how great FOAM is, and at the same time,...

July 25, 2016

So You've Decided to Tweet

As the new medical-academic year begins, I'm guessing a bunch of new interns will learn about how great FOAM is, and at the same time, get an orientation lecture on "threats to professionalism." Obviously I think there is a ton of potential benefit to using social media as a medical professional, and here are some of the ways I "maintain professionalism" (read: keep myself out of trouble).

One of my big keys is to not try to "not violate HIPAA" – that's easy and too low of a bar.
The real key is to not piss off the carpetwalkers: I don't want to have to defend myself in a meeting with Risk Management. Instead, I want to maintain a general profile I can defend to my dean and my department chair (and maybe someday to the promotion & tenure committee).

Twitter is a Giant Elevator
My big overall philosophy is that social media is like talking on an elevator. But: my mom, department chair, medical school dean, the patients' family, and a million other people are in the elevator. Obviously that doesn't mean that I'm always banal and polite. Rather, I recognize that people will see what I write and it is always tied to me.

Patient Privacy
Easy version: never talk about real patients.

Slightly tougher but still easy: if I do want to talk about real patients, I change enough of the details so that if the actual patient were to see it, the patient wouldn't recognize that it was them.

Two mistakes people make: date of service and age over 90 are HIPAA-protected PHI. The number one thing I do if I am referencing something that happened to a real patient is that I don't do it the same day (or even the same week).

I never even reference "oh look what happened on my drive to work today" so there can't be a real connection between anything I say and a real patient. And I don't share pictures from work or of patients without all of my ducks in a row (if at all).

On Anonymity
I'm not opposed to being anonymous, but I'm very much intentionally not. This is partially as a check on myself -- I know whatever I say is tied to me. A big part of it is to avoid the fear of people discovering my secret identity.

I'm not recommending anyone be anonymous on social media, but if I were, I would tell all my relevant bosses (e.g. program director, chair). If something serious "goes down," i.e. there's some sort of scandal, and it's a total surprise and secret to everyone, I imagine that there will likely be a big sense of betrayal.

But I don't want to be anonymous, it means you are giving up a lot of the upside. I imagine the benefits are possible but a lot harder if anonymous. Because the bottom line is that there are legitimate career, academic, and potentially financial benefits to being active on social media as a medical professional.

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