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Online physicians, offline patients: Professional identity and ethics in social media use

Anson Au (Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 11 June 2018

626

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how the nature, gravity, and consequences of physician use of social media use surpass professional identity, by bringing to attention the nuanced, potential conflicts between patient-physician interests in current educational policies.

Design/methodology/approach

Analyzing a case study of a physician publicly posting and commenting on many of his patients’ information, conversations, and medical conditions on social media.

Findings

Physician social media use carries many issues that concern ethics and the patient, rather than professional identity and the physician. In response, two sets of ethical standards are developed: one that deals with what constitutes impermissible behaviors online, and another that stipulates appropriate punishments for violations of these codes.

Originality/value

Most medical education policies and the literature have emphasized professional identity- formation with regards to physician use of social media, rather than ethics. Furthermore, no study exists that presents a clear, concrete, insider perspective at physicians’ improper use of social media.

Keywords

Citation

Au, A. (2018), "Online physicians, offline patients: Professional identity and ethics in social media use", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 38 No. 5-6, pp. 474-483. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-08-2017-0102

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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