This article explores the communication challenges brought about by the digital revolution in the 21st century for healthcare professionals internationally. It particularly focuses on the use of content-generating and sharing platforms like social media. Globally, healthcare has been irrevocably altered by digital innovation and health professionals deploy an extensive range of social media and web-based tools on a daily basis. However, many healthcare professionals use these platforms in a regulatory vacuum—where there may not be specific legal or ethical guidance—and without an appreciation of the associated risks. Given the special protections afforded to the practitioner–patient relationship, and the importance of a health practitioners' reputation, it is vital that we understand how to traverse the many ethical and legal challenges of the digital interaction. A comprehensive set of recommendations (see “Guidelines for Good Digital Citizenship in the Health Professions” on page 5 ff.) to keep practitioners out of trouble is provided. These hinge on the notion of being a “good person and a good doctor” as a formative maxim for ethical and legal safety. The constituents of publication, and the consequences of falling foul of acceptable publication standards on social media, are specifically discussed. “Publication” involves sharing content with a third party, or a group of people, and social media refers to platforms on which content can be shared with more than one person. Hence, most information that we post on social media can be considered as “published,” and as such may attach liability for health professionals who do not use these platforms with requisite care and sufficient forethought.
social media - health communication - digital platforms - ethics - law