American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting

American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting

November 14, 2019
2 min read

‘Stop and think’ each time you use social media professionally

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ATLANTA — Because social media guidelines at the institution, practice setting and professional organizations are often vague or open to interpretation, Jilaine Bolek Berquist, MD, a rheumatologist with Mercy Health in Janesville, Wisconsin, focused her “Tweets & Trolls” talk on recommendations for physicians when using social media.

“What we do online does have implications on our career and how the world sees physicians and our medical profession,” she said here at the 2019 ACR/ARP Annual Meeting.

Physicians may want to use social media to network with colleagues; engage in advocacy; “disseminate their reach to a larger audience;” “keep up on the literature;” and, often, to post or interact with health care content such as the Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAMed) including Healio Rheumatology; Rheum Now; EBRheum; Women Rheumatology Group on Facebook; Healio Rheuminations; the ACR podcast; and the Rheumatology Journal Club, which meets monthly.

Bolek Berquist reminded the audience of the 1995 paper on health care professionals and inappropriate comments heard in public spaces, particularly elevators.

“Think of [social media] as the entire world is on our elevator,” Bolek Berquist said.

Despite the vagueness and lack of evidenced-based literature on social media, Bolek Berquist said there are several “never behaviors” on social media: “misleading claims of treatment outcomes; misrepresentation of board certification; posting patient images without clear consent; posting pictures of intoxication or sexually explicit material; and anything illegal.”

When interacting (posting, liking or retweeting) with health care content, she advised physicians to verify and then share only “credible health information.” Additionally, avoid patient’s personal identifiable information, avoid anonymity and disclose any compensation one receives for posting or interacting with social media content; that is, use #ad or note that the post is “brought to you by” or sponsored, she said.

“I am advocating for [you to] stop and think before posting. Everyone should have their own [standards] that go through their head where they say ‘if I go through all these things and still think it is okay to post that, then it is okay,’” she said citing questions such as:

  • Does it fit my social media goals?
  • What will my patients think?
  • What will my health system think?
  • Is it in line with my values?
  • Is it accurate?

Bolek Berquist recommended a paper published in Circulation in 2013 on social media, which she classified as “required reading.” If you are interested in the mechanics of getting started on social media, please read this Healio Joan-Marie Stiglich, ELS


Bolek Berquist J. Tweets & trolls: How to handle social media. Presented at: American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Annual Meeting; Nov. 9-13, 2019; Atlanta.

Disclosure: Bolek Berquist reports no relevant financial disclosures.