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Beware Social Media’s Pitfalls

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, November 13, 2012

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, social media can do harm as well as good. Social media's power is awesome, but as the brilliant superhero Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility.

If you read my column last week, you know that clinicians and patients, speaking in their authentic voices, can trump formulaic marketing materials. But the need to employ a metric ton of common sense and discretion is greater than ever.

The challenge for health leaders is to instill that common sense and discretion into every employee, since social media is nonhierarchical by its nature, and tweets, blogs and Facebook posts don't work if they need to be preapproved (and they won't scale either).

The wake-up call for social media in healthcare probably occurred five years ago in Boston. Ivy League-educated pediatrician Robert P. Lindeman, MD, on the witness stand, confessed that he was also a blogger known as Flea. Lindeman was defending himself in a malpractice suit involving the death of a patient.

Incredibly, Lindeman had been blogging details of the case under the online identity of Flea, and that revelation cost him dearly, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that Lindeman ended up paying a substantial settlement in the case.

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