By the end of 2014, Internet users will total more than 2 billion worldwide. This digital revolution has affected health care — particularly radiology, a specialty relying on technology — in many ways. It has revolutionized communication between physician colleagues and between physicians and their patients. It has made document and data management more accurate and seamless. And it has improved access to information at the point of care, resulting in enhanced diagnoses.
Yet the introduction of some websites, from social media to sites for reviews and ratings, also puts physician reputations at risk. For example, anyone from patients and referring physicians to future employers routinely perform Google searches for their radiologists or interviewees. If they find an inappropriate personal post or negative review, it could sway their perception or increase their likelihood of changing physicians. Here are some tips for putting your best foot forward online.
William F. Shields, JD, LLM, CAE, ACR general counsel, says members should be aware that anything they say or do online can come back to haunt them. “I could search for you,” Shields says, “and had you done something foolish on spring break ten years ago, it could still be online. There’s no law that prohibits a future employer from looking for past indiscretions on the Internet. Anything you say or do could come up on a search engine.”
David M. Naeger, MD, assistant professor of clinical radiology at the University of California, San Francisco, agrees, pointing out the challenging gray zone between personal and professional social media accounts (read his tweets @DavidNaegerMD). “Facebook is an example of a social media site on which many physicians try to keep their accounts 100% personal — by not reaching out to colleagues or patients and not making any attempt to promote themselves or their practices. Even then, private information can sometimes be found by people who know you professionally,” he says, also noting the importance of privacy in personal accounts. “That’s why I’m an advocate of protecting personal information on these sites. You absolutely need to learn about the privacy settings available.”
Naeger adds that even when content is made private, posts about you can still be made public without your knowing. As a rule of thumb, Naeger advises limiting any personal information you post, even on a private or non-professional account: “If you don’t want something to be seen by colleagues and patients, you just shouldn’t post it.”