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Physician Misconduct Showing Up on the Internet: Survey
Date:3/20/2012

By Mary Brophy Marcus
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Some doctors are sliding down a slippery slope in their online lives, committing professional violations, whether intentional or not, and risking their careers, a new survey suggests.

The survey of 68 medical boards across the United States aimed to ferret out types of unprofessional physician behaviors online and the repercussions of those actions. The findings, published in a research letter in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggest physicians and patients need to be aware of medical misconduct on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media and online venues.

"Just about everyone now has heard of someone they know who's done something online that they wish they hadn't done. I think the message is that medical professionals are responsible for what they put online -- not only responsible for the information, but accountable," said lead letter author Dr. Ryan Greysen, an assistant professor in the division of hospital medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Greysen said the response was good at 71 percent (48 of 68 medical board executive directors responded). The majority (92 percent) said at least one online violation of professionalism had ever been reported. The most common problems were inappropriate patient communication online, such as sexual misconduct (69 percent); use of the Internet for inappropriate practice, including Internet prescribing without an established real-life clinical relationship (63 percent); and doctors misrepresenting their credentials (60 percent).

The respondents also answered questions about how they handled the violations. Seventy-one percent conducted disciplinary proceedings, including formal hearings. Forty percent issued informal warnings and 25 percent reported at least one instance in which no action was taken. Greysen said
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