HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nicolas P. Terry: "Fear of Facebook: Private Ordering of Social Media Risks Incurred by Healthcare Providers"

For an excellent read, Nicolas P. Terry, Professor of Law at Saint Louis University School of Law and blogger extraordinaire on Health Law Prof, has published on SSRN the article " Fear of Facebook: Private Ordering of Social Media Risks Incurred by Healthcare Providers." Here is the abstract:

Nic terry The last two years have seen important quantitative and qualitative shifts in social media use patterns in the healthcare environment. Reacting to present and future risks there has been a rapid deployment of private ordering: social media policies and other contractual constructs emanating from physicians, professional organizations, employers and educators. These private, often contractual attempts to regulate online interactions or social media conduct are not all benign, themselves creating ethical or legal risk. This article, a follow-up to Physicians And Patients Who ‘Friend’ Or ‘Tweet’: Constructing A Legal Framework For Social Networking In A Highly Regulated Domain, 43 IND. L. REV. 285 (2010), concentrates on social media and these new risk management constructs. Part II provides updated statistics on Internet use by healthcare workers and explores some of the scenarios that have led medical schools and healthcare entities to expressly address social media behavior. Part III inquires into how professional organizations or those who employ or credential physicians have attempted to change the rules of the game by promulgating social media policies and analyses some of the legal constraints on those policies. Part IV deals with the reality of medically relevant information about patients increasingly moving online and asks whether physicians should attempt to access information that might be useful or even life-saving. Finally, Part V describes how the patient-physician dialog has increasingly spilled out of the consulting room and onto social media sites and explores how physicians should react not only to overtures for social media friendship but also to online critical patient comments.


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Thank you for an interesting article. It makes me wonder what the risks to the patient are as well. For example, is it possible that a waiver of doctor-patient privilege may be raised in a case where a doctor friends a patient on Facebook? There are similar policies being instituted in the educational field regarding teachers friending students. One teacher is complaining that the policy prohibits her from being friends with her own daughter on Facebook. It will be interesting to see the discussions about challenges to Facebook policies that are claimed to violate our right to the freedom of association.

Posted by: Dana Atman, Esq. | Aug 24, 2011 8:07:02 AM

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