Medical Boards Discipline Physicians for Online Behavior
Author: Jenni Laidman
March 20, 2012 — Most medical licensing boards have received at least 1 complaint about unprofessional online behavior by physicians, and many of these complaints resulted in serious disciplinary actions, including license revocation, according to a research letter published in the March 21 issue of JAMA.
S. Ryan Greysen, MD, from the Division of Hospital Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues report that 48 (71%) of the 68 executive directors of medical licensing boards responded to the study survey. Of those, 44 (92%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 86% – 98%) indicated receiving at least 1 complaint about an online professional breach.
The most common complaints reported inappropriate communication with a patient, such as sexual misconduct, which was reported to 33 (69%) of 48 boards (95% CI, 58% – 80%); inappropriate practice, such as Internet prescribing without an established clinical relationship, reported to 30 (63%) of 48 boards (95% CI, 52% – 74%); and online misrepresentation of credentials, reported to 29 (60%) of 48 boards (95% CI, 48% – 72%). Thirty-one boards indicated that reports were made by patients or their families (31/48; 65%), and 24 (50%) of 48 boards said other physicians made the complaint.
A New Way to Violate Our Standards
“We’ve just found a new way to violate our own standards,” Jason Jent, PhD, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics, Division of Clinical Psychology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Florida, said to Medscape Medical News. Dr. Jent, who has published about physician online behavior, has no association with the JAMA letter. “Some of the violations we’ve seen in face-to-face communication, or over the phone, or by mail have now extended to online behavior. This is something we have to pay attention to,” he added.
The study authors say much the same: “Furthermore, these violations also may be important online manifestations of serious and common violations offline, including substance abuse, sexual misconduct, and abuse of prescription privileges.”
Thanks to author: Jenni Laidman