AMA social media “guidelines” a waste of time

I was at work this morning when a news item crossed my Twitter feed that got my attention: “AMA releases guidelines for entering social media.”

On my first glance at it, I found it underwhelming, but still better than nothing. After all, it was nice to see the American Medical Association acknowledge the reality of physicians using social media. And you should always try to look for the upside, right?

Well, after getting feedback from one of my acquaintances in the Twitter-sphere, and reviewing the “guidelines” again, I’m not sure I would call them guidelines as much as a waste of my time and that of those who read them.

Here are the AMA’s “guidelines:

  • Use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the fullest extent possible on social networking sites.
  • Routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality is maintained.
  • Consider separating personal and professional content online.
  • Recognize that actions online and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.

Other than the last one, these guidelines sound like something any company in any industry could have come up with. They’re vague, generic and hardly provide any guidance that would make healthcare providers more willing to use them professionally.

I’ve already been conditioned to expect this from the FDA’s Social Media guidance for pharmaceutical companies, assuming the FDA ever gets around to releasing it (it’s supposed to be out by the end of this year). But I guess I expected better from the top professional organization for physicians in the United States. If you don’t think your members shouldn’t use social media professionally, just say it. If you think they can and should use it professionally, you need to come up with something far clearer and stronger than this.

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