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The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure Adopts the Model Policy, cont.

Earlier this week, I began the discussion about the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure adopting the Model Policy. While the Model Policy serves as a cautionary reminder of the hazards of social media, it also emphasizes the “enormous potential” social media has for both physicians and their patients. As telecommuting grows, electronic health records are implemented, and smart phones find their way into more and more physicians’ hands, it is obvious that shying away from technology is no longer an option. Nor should it be, as the use of social media really does have its benefits: reduced costs, improved physician-to-physician sharing and learning opportunities, the crossing of geographic boundaries, and a way to provide important information to the public.

The newest generation of physicians grew up in the age of Facebook and Twitter – Internet communications are second nature to them. What might not be second nature is the code of professionalism that accompanies their new roles. Older physicians, on the other hand, are well versed in the rules of professional conduct, but do not know how these rules transfer into the world of social media and networking. The Model Policy should be read by both of these camps as they navigate the ever-changing technological landscape and adopt best practices to protect both themselves and their patients.

While the Model Policy is a great starting point, there is no reason to stop there; medical practices and other health care providers should create and implement their own social media policies. All personnel should undergo extensive social media training and, to the extent possible and legally permissible, employees’ social media activity should be monitored for compliance.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure’s adoption of the Model Policy was a significant step towards acknowledging the role of social media in today’s health care culture and helping physicians recognize important boundaries. At the end of the day, though, it is and always has been the physician’s responsibility to manage his or her own professional reputation – both in the office and online.

Chris Shaughnessy

Christopher J. Shaughnessy is an attorney at McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC.  Mr. Shaughnessy concentrates his practice area in health care law and is located in the firm’s Lexington office.  He can be reached at cshaughnessy@mmlk.com or at (859) 231-8780. 

This article is intended as a summary of federal and state law activities and does not constitute legal advice.

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