Striking a Healthy Social Media Balance

By Steve Barrett
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Category: 

Social media: Can’t live without it, can’t pitch it into an active volcano.

But what you can do as a physician is set boundaries to maintain a degree of separation between your personal and professional lives — while also leveraging platforms that benefit patients.

That’s the message from Kimberly Becher, MD, who practices at a rural Federally Qualified Health Center in Clay County, West Virginia.

It’s OK to establish a nonmedical social media presence, Dr. Becher blogs at aafp.org, the website for the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Sometimes I need to step away from medicine to keep balance in my life,” she explains.

For her, that has meant setting up a Facebook page to communicate only with friends. She accepts no friend requests from patients, nor does she read anything patients send through Facebook Messenger.

However, Dr. Becher does not deem all social media contact with patients damaging to a healthy balance between work and home life.

“I created my Twitter account to connect with other physicians interested in health policy,” she writes. “And although many of my patients don’t use social media, I have a few who do follow me and have mentioned reading articles I post on vaccines. I like having a social media outlet that reaches patients, but I also enjoy having another that does not.”

An AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinion encourages physicians to “consider separating personal and professional content online.”