I recently went to a meeting with a group of physicians to discuss the whole idea of incorporating social media into our marketing strategy — particularly blogging. Their major concern was liability. Happily, we had a lawyer there to help us consider the issues:
1) Are you carrying on a physician/patient relationship by talking to a prospective patient online, and thereby practicing medicine?
2) If you talk to someone from a different state are you practicing medicine across state lines?
3) Are you violating HIPPA or other privacy laws?
The answer in a word, to all of these questions, is no. As long as you don’t offer advice to a specific patient about a specific situation and you speak more in generalities about diseases, treatments, procedures, trends, drugs, etc. your relationship is not construed as practicing medicine. You can offer your thinking and your opinions just like you would if you gave a speech. You can respond to specific individuals, but just as you wouldn’t prescribe without seeing a patient in person and having a more in-depth conversation — don’t do it online. Keep it more general and you’re safe. What a shock — the lawyer actually laughed at the end and said, I can’t believe it, but I encourage you to do this. This is where the patients are!
P.S. I am NOT an attorney and I am NOT offering legal advice in this blog.