Dr. V was responding to a request from Susannah Fox, Associate Director - Digital Strategy at Pew Internet & American Life Project, who will be speaking on a panel at the American College of Surgeons 96th Annual Clinical Congress next month. The session title is To Tweet or Become Extinct?: Why Surgeons Need to Understand Social Networking.
As someone who regularly speaks to groups of physicians I enjoy the opportunity every time (as long as I start off by saying I'm a health care defense attorney). As a group they are always engaging and inquisitive which leads to great discussions. As Dr. V points out the legal aspects and concerns over privacy and liability will be a topic not far below the surface. Like lawyers surgeons are trained to be skeptical technicians. I see that there is a lawyer, Rebekah A. Z. Monson, who is on the panel to cover the dos and don'ts. However, I hope you (Susannah) will weave into the legal discussion the consumer health and e-patient issues that often clash with the legal implications. Don't let the legal issues stand alone.
Dr. V's advice of ". . . discussion of patient-specific issues in public forums is off limits; discussion of patient non-specific issues is encouraged. Any attempt at patient-initiated discussion of specific medical issues immediately goes offline and onto the EMR for issues of record, liability and safety . . ." is excellent. I also like Dr. V's ethical dilemma recommendation for a possible case study approach during the discussion. One example you may want to explore using to address the clash between physician as authoritarian (transparency issue that Dr. V discusses) vs. patient as engaged consumer (e-patient) is the story of Johathan Zittrain's crowdsourcing his diagnosis. His story presents many great angles on social media's use in the health care environment by e-patients.
As for the legal implications of social media if you want to bone up on the topic take a look at the article I co-authored for AHLA earlier this year on the legal implications of health care social media, Risky Business:
Good luck Susannah and break a leg (no worries - there will be plenty of docs around to take care of you)!