In the Era of Social Media: Is it time to establish a code of online ethical conduct for healthcare professionals?

Amal A. Al-Balushi


Social media is becoming an invasive part of the lives of many professionals including those in the healthcare field. One of the countless implications of such an invasion is how the healthcare professional’s engagement with social media affects the traditional doctor-patient relationship. The online presence of professionals should be carefully self-monitored as it affects the individual’s reputation and society’s perception of their profession. Therefore, the contents of public and personal accounts must differ according to their purpose. In the public eye, conflicts of interest must be declared and scientifically-based medical advice should be clearly differentiated from experience-based advice, personal opinions or commercial advertisements. Online doctorpatient relationships risk the privacy of patients as well as the personal privacy of the healthcare professional. Personal accounts created for friends and family should be kept separate from public accounts created for educational, professional or commercial purposes. Published educational material should be clearly differentiated from commercial material so that it is easier for the public to make an informed decision. This paper proposes a code of online ethical conduct to be implemented in Oman.

Keywords: Codes of Ethics; Social Media; Health Personnel; Privacy; Confidentiality; Conflict of Interest; Physician-Patient Relations; Oman.

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Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Postal Code 123, Al-Khod, Muscat, Oman

ISSN (Print edition): 2075-051X ISSN (Internet edition): 2075-0528

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