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Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®

, Volume 470, Issue 5, pp 1386–1392 | Cite as

Online Professional Networks for Physicians: Risk Management

  • Jon L. HymanEmail author
  • Howard J. Luks
  • Randale Sechrest
Symposium: Evolving Medicolegal Concepts

Abstract

Background

The rapidly developing array of online physician-only communities represents a potential extraordinary advance in the availability of educational and informational resources to physicians. These online communities provide physicians with a new range of controls over the information they process, but use of this social media technology carries some risk.

Questions/purposes

The purpose of this review was to help physicians manage the risks of online professional networking and discuss the potential benefits that may come with such networks. This article explores the risks and benefits of physicians engaging in online professional networking with peers and provides suggestions on risk management.

Methods

Through an Internet search and literature review, we scrutinized available case law, federal regulatory code, and guidelines of conduct from professional organizations and consultants. We reviewed the OrthoMind.com site as a case example because it is currently the only online social network exclusively for orthopaedic surgeons.

Results

Existing case law suggests potential liability for orthopaedic surgeons who engage with patients on openly accessible social network platforms. Current society guidelines in both the United States and Britain provide sensible rules that may mitigate such risks. However, the overall lack of a strong body of legal opinions, government regulations as well as practical experience for most surgeons limit the suitability of such platforms. Closed platforms that are restricted to validated orthopaedic surgeons may limit these downside risks and hence allow surgeons to collaborate with one another both as clinicians and practice owners.

Conclusions

Educating surgeons about the pros and cons of participating in these networking platforms is helping them more astutely manage risks and optimize benefits. This evolving online environment of professional interaction is one of few precedents, but the application of risk management strategies that physicians use in daily practice carries over into the online community. This participation should foster ongoing dialogue as new guidelines emerge. This will allow today’s orthopaedic surgeon to feel more comfortable with online professional networks and better understand how to make an informed decision regarding their proper use.

Keywords

Social Media Orthopaedic Surgeon Social Networking Site Online Social Network Improve Patient Care 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge Christina Kirkland and Aman Shah for their invaluable assistance in the preparation of the manuscript.

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Copyright information

© The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons® 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon L. Hyman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Howard J. Luks
    • 2
  • Randale Sechrest
    • 3
  1. 1.SmyrnaUSA
  2. 2.New York Medical CollegeValhallaUSA
  3. 3.Medical Multimedia Group, LLCMissoulaUSA

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