Social media, health care, and more

I recently published a review article within the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA) discussing current literature involving clinicians attempting to incorporate social media tools into patient care practices.[i] My decision to do this review came from several discussions with fellow clinicians during the 2014 APhA Annual Meeting in Orlando and work with the APhA Policy Committee to formulate a policy statement around social media for pharmacists. It appeared that to many people social media just meant Facebook®, YouTube®, or Twitter® and that was it. The thought of providing direct patient care on websites where millions of people waste countless hours watching cat videos justifiably doesn’t sit well with clinicians. My hope with this article was to explain that social media isn’t limited to Zuckerberg or the Winklevoss twins.

While I was in San Diego a few weeks ago for the 2015 APhA Annual Meeting, a continuing education session on social media was on the agenda. Unfortunately, half of it was used as a recruiting tool for one particular company rather than providing an educated discussion on the topic. Sitting through that session reminded me how far we have come in the past decade but also how far we still have to go in evolving in this new connected landscape.


The one major issue that we still need to settle in the United States is where does “privacy” fit in to our culture. On one hand, in health care, we hold patient information to the highest privacy standards almost to the point that we are afraid of doing anything innovative that has any conceivable risk of violating that privacy right.[ii] On the other hand, with respect to everything NOT related to health care, we have practically conceded our right to privacy and seem to shrug off any gross intrusion into our personal life by an individual or a company on the internet. When our privacy is invaded in the name of national security, our fear of another major attack on US soil opens the door.[iii]

Have we given up?

During the CE session at APhA, one of the speakers continued to refer back to his major talking point of “privacy no longer exists” and left it at that. It was frustrating to see everyone in the room just nod and smile. Was the audience just tired? Did red coatsthey just want to knock out some CE credit and move on? I couldn’t understand why that statement didn’t seem to bother anyone. Do we need to be occupied by British soldiers in red coats again to remind everyone why over 200 years ago a group of rebels thought that when building a new government that people had the right to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures…”?[iv]


[i] Mattingly II TJ. Innovative patient care practices using social media. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2015;e295-e300.

[ii] Health Information Privacy. US Department of Health & Human Services. Available at:, accessed on April 13, 2015.

[iii] Zara D. Dilemmas of the internet age: privacy vs. security. CNN. Available at:, accessed on April 13, 2015.

[iv] Fourth Amendement. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. Available at:, accessed on April 13, 2015.

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Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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