There is a good side and a bad side to most things in life, and the Internet is not immune. Reliable medical websites can provide good information that can help our patients have a more complete understanding of health conditions and advocate for themselves.

But there are also many unreliable patient blogs and phishing sites from malpractice firms that may look very helpful on the surface, but do not contain good information. Social media complicates things further – to some it seems like a foreign language, whereas others have been online sharing every thought and emotion since high school.

Many of us know that working in the health care profession means that the white coat never comes off. Because of that, clinicians need to be aware of appropriate online etiquette when using social media websites. Everything you write will be a reflection of you as a professional health care provider.

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Here are a few general rules of the thumb for things that you should and should not post online:

  • Do not post anything that you would not want your mother to read
  • Do not post anything that you would not want your patients to see
  • Do not post anything that you would not want a current or future employer to see
  • Do post information that patients or referring practitioners could use to direct patients to your practice
  • Do post good general healthcare information, such as updates on preventive health care guidelines from professional organizations or government agencies
  • Do post practice-related updates such as inclement weather advisories, directions and general office hours

Like your prescription pad — a great responsiblty has been placed in your hands. So think before you hit the enter key. Once you have posted something to the Internet you might not be able to take it back.