Should doctors and patients be friends on Facebook?

It’s a debate worth having, after a new survey found that more than a-third of all doctors have received “friend” requests from patients on Facebook. However, less than 1-in-10 accept those “friend” requests. Why?

First, many doctors say it crosses a line from a professional to a personal relationship. After all, some doctors just don’t want patients reading about where their kids go to school, or which restaurants they like to eat dinner at.

Plus, the American Medical Association has published ethical guidelines, recommending that doctors separate professional and personal content online. The worry is that doctors may post misleading information about clinical studies, before they’ve been tested or approved by the FDA, or worse, there have been cases of doctors sharing private information about a patient’s health.

But where many doctors have worries about social media, others see the benefits. As an example, a doctor we read about says she’s comfortable using Facebook as an easy way for patients to reach her in emergencies.

Other doctors say they learn “useful information” about their patients, from the messages we post on Facebook. Like one doctor who read a post from a patient about waking up a lot at night to use the bathroom. That was something the patient had never mentioned in the exam room, and it encouraged the doctor to talk to the patient about a treatment.

So, what do you think? Is it a good idea for doctors and patients to be Facebook “friends”? Or is that crossing a line? Weigh in at Facebook.com/JohnTesh.