April 1, 2022

Your doctor is moonlighting on TikTok as an influencer

Dom Sisti recently spoke to Fast Company about the very real and serious impacts at the intersection of bioethics, influencers, and healthcare on social media.

From Fast Company:

The American Medical Association (AMA) does have a set of guidelines for doctors on social media, but it primarily addresses such issues as professionalism and protecting a patient’s privacy. What isn’t immediately clear are measures on how doctors should navigate brand deals and endorsements, what constitutes advice versus general information, and other knotty issues presented by broadcasting content via social media. Making matters more complicated is the sheer scale of the major platforms, such as TikTok, and how easily people can gain a sizable following with no real vetting process.

“It’s the Wild West,” says Dom Sisti, an assistant professor in the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “Social media was something that we as bioethicists just didn’t have our eyes on—and it’s coming back now to haunt us.”

To Sisti, there should have been a more serious conversation about bioethics online even before the advent of influencers.

“We were so preoccupied with the Human Genome Project in the 1990s. There was all this grant money for bioethicists to look at the ethics of genetics,” he says. “All the while, the internet was mushrooming into what we have today—this gigantic thing that has propelled societies to change dramatically in a very short amount of time.

“While we were over here looking at genetics and cloning,” he continues, “social media was happening, and it has had a profound impact on healthcare and on the way we think about medicine.”

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