Electronic Communication in Plastic Surgery: Guiding Principles from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Health Policy Committee

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Abstract

Background:

With the advancement of technology, electronic communication has become an important mode of communication within plastic and reconstructive surgery. This can take the form of e-mail, text messaging, video conferencing, and social media, among others. There are currently no defined American Society of Plastic Surgeons guidelines for appropriate professional use of these technologies.

Methods:

A search was performed on PubMed and the Cochrane database; terms included “telemedicine,” “text messaging,” “HIPAA,” “metadata,” “video conferencing,” “photo sharing,” “social media,” “Facebook,” “Twitter,” and “Instagram.” Initial screening of all identified articles was performed; the level of evidence, limitations, and recommendations were evaluated and articles were reviewed.

Results:

A total of 654 articles were identified in the level I screening process; after more comprehensive review, 41 articles fit inclusion criteria: social networking, 12; telemedicine, 11; text messaging, 10; metadata, four; video conferencing, three; and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, one. General themes were identified from these articles and guidelines proposed.

Conclusion:

Electronic communication can provide an efficient method of information exchange for professional purposes within plastic surgery but should be used thoughtfully and with all professional, legal, and ethical considerations.

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