Study: Future doctors share too much on Facebook. Way too much.

You can always rely on Joshua Schwimmer to find some interesting links and here it is:

Future doctors share too much on Facebook. University of Florida News Desk.

"Would it bother you to know that your physician smokes cigars and likes to do “keg stands”? That your gynecologist was a member of a group called “I Hate Medical School”? That your urologist is a fan of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”?

That is exactly the sort of information many people share on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. According to a new University of Florida study, many medical students are sharing far too much."

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (again?).

"Facebook is full of bluster and trash talk, and college-age users may feel that these items are not to be taken seriously. Yet patients and future employers, the researchers say, may not have quite so strong a taste for irony.

“Doctors are held to a higher standard,” Thompson said. “There are stated codes of behavior that are pretty straightforward, and those standards encourage the development of a professional persona.

The medical profession isn’t the only career that requires young people to develop a professional identity."

One of the best ways to establish an online identity is to buy a domain for your own name, start a blog and link them together. Then, you can be sure that when people Google your name, they will find you and not "bad_goat457," for example.

A domain name costs $ 10 per year. Most students are short of money but if you decide to place AdSense ads on your blog, the tiny income ($ 2 a month?) will pay for the domain name. Please note: this is not a product endorsement for Google AdSense.

Of course, as a future physician, it is probably better to blog if you have something valuable to say, or if you are planning to create a personal learning archive of sort. Google is already plenty busy indexing those trillions of web pages as it is.

Tips for Medical Bloggers

  • Write as if your boss and your patients are reading your blog every day
  • Comply with HIPAA
  • List your name and contact information
  • If your blog is work-related, it is better to let your employer know
  • Inquire if there are any blogging guidelines. If there are, comply with them strictly
  • Use a disclaimer, e.g. "All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice."
  • Get your blog accredited by the Heath on the Net Foundation

Twitter updates:

  • Woman gets fired for calling in sick, but employer catches her online at home on Facebook.

  • Omaha Herald: "Party busted for underage drinking after event posted on Facebook"

Make Yourself Google-able
How Can a Doctor Use Google Page Creator?
Geek to Live: Have a say in what Google says about you., also image source.
Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals: More Bad than Good?
Using a Blog to Build an Educational Portfolio
Becoming a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Web 2.0 Projects
How to manage your reputation online. Medical Economics, 01/2009.

Updated: 04/27/2009


  1. Great Tip for Medical Bloggers: Comply with HIPAA

    As a consultant providing HIPAA compliance services to healthcare, issues regarding the safeguarding

    Protected Health Information continues to grow. Over time, many observers believe that HIPAA privacy and

    security compliance will more closely resemble the enforcement reputation of OSHA if it is to be effective.

    Only then will we see a reduction in patient records "snooping", lost patient data and responsible social

    networking posts.

    In fact, there is a new HIPAA enforcement bill introduced in July, 2007 by Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen.

    Patrick Leahy, called the Health Information Privacy and Security Act of 2007 (HIPSA) that apparently would

    not replace HIPAA but require the Department of Health and Human Services to revise HIPAA to be consistent

    with HIPSA.

    HIPSA requires the establishment of an Office of Health Information Privacy at DHHS and gives it enforcement

    powers to impose criminal and civil penalties for unauthorized disclosure of patient information. In addition,

    HIPSA would permit individuals to sue for compensatory damages and receive punitive damages in cases of

    unauthorized disclosure. Moreover, HIPSA would authorize state attorney generals to sue on behalf of state

    residents and permit whistle blowers who report violations to be protected from retaliation.

    More on HIPAA compliance at:

  2. I have a FB account which I don't use much but really just have sitting there. But I have been surprised how many people contact me through it. And I use it to advertise professional events to midwifery groups there. I am mindful about where it sits in a professional world, but it's been a case of 'if you can't beat them, join them'.

  3. The great thing about facebook, though, is the privacy it allows. You can post whatever you want on facebook and only allow people to view whom you specifically authorize.
    The bigger issue is with medicall blogging - as anyone can view a blog. There's an interesting discussion going on about that here:

  4. Thanks for the link, James. We've been having the same discussions in midwifery and occupational therapy:

  5. Sarah, your discussion of "Study: Future doctors share too much on Facebook. Way too much.", is helping call attention the need for Medical Schools to educate students on professional conduct in the electronic age. HIPAA privacy and security standards are very specific with respect to protected health information.

    Learn more at

  6. Hi Grant, there's no doubt that we need to provide guidance to students, but at the same time I am keen that we do not completely prohibit them from using tools such as Facebook and blogs for reflection and networking, which are valuable learning and support activities.

  7. You going to "prohibit" the students from using Facebook?

    Get a life. They will use it anyway.

    Better off to educate them how to use it and hope they take some of the advice...

  8. Yes, anonymous, that is exactly what I am saying - sorry if I didn't make that clear.