A Society of Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) statement on closed social media (Facebook®) groups for clinical education and consultation: issues of informed consent, patient privacy, and surgeon protection
Closed social media groups (CSMG), including closed Facebook® groups, are online communities providing physicians with platforms to collaborate privately via text, images, videos, and live streaming in real time and optimize patient care. CSMG platforms represent a novel paradigm in online learning and education, so it is imperative to ensure that the public and patients trust the physicians using these platforms. Informed consent is an essential aspect of establishing this trust. With the launch of several of its own CSMG, Society of Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES) sought to define its position on CSMG platforms and provide an informed consent template for educating and protecting patients, surgeons, and institutions.
A review of the literature (2012–2018) discussing the informed consent process for posting clinical scenarios, photography, and/or videography on social media was performed. Pertinent articles and exemplary legal counsel-approved CSMG policies and informed consent forms were reviewed by members of the SAGES Facebook® Task Force.
Eleven articles and two institutional CSMG policies discussing key components of the informed consent process, including patient transparency and confidentiality, provider-patient partnerships, ethics, and education were included. Using this information and expert opinion, a SAGES-approved statement and informed consent template were formulated.
SAGES endorses the professional use of medical and surgical CSMG platforms for education, patient care optimization, and dissemination of clinical information. Despite the growing use of social media as an integral tool for surgical practice and education, issues of informed consent still exist and remain the responsibility of the physician contributor. Responsible, ethical, and compliant use of CSMG platforms is essential. Surgeons and patients embracing CSMG for quality improvement and optimized outcomes should be legally protected. SAGES foresees the use of this type of platform continuing to grow.
KeywordsFacebook Social media Closed groups Informed consent Surgery Education
The authors wish to acknowledge members of the SAGES Facebook® Group Task Force.
Compliance with ethical standards
Dr. Bittner receives honoraria for speaking/teaching from Intuitive Surgical, Inc., and consulting fees from BD, Inc. and CMR Surgical Limited. Dr. Alseidi receives honoraria for speaking/teaching from Ethicon, Inc. Dr. Aggarwal receives consulting fees from Applied Medical, Inc. Dr. Jacob receives grant support, honoraria for speaking/teaching, and consulting fees from Medtronic, Inc., consulting fees from Ethicon, Inc., and serves as Founder and President, International Hernia Collaboration, Inc. Drs. Logghe, Kane, and Goldberg have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.
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