Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…and Cancer – Social Media in Pediatric Oncology

Presentation Description: The advent of social media has prompted a major shift in the clinician-patient relationship. The opportunities for patients and their family members to engage with health care providers using social networking sites hold the promise of enhancing communication, strengthening the therapeutic alliance, and bolstering patient satisfaction. Indeed, some would argue that clinicians have an ethical obligation to interact with their patients in the electronic space and we now have numerous examples of providers who have succeeded in doing so. On the other hand, clinicians’ increasing use of social media and their interactions with patients in that setting can yield new ethical dilemmas. The potential for lapses in medical professionalism has led some to adopt very restrictive policies which would limit or even prevent clinicians from communicating with patients using social media.

This presentation elucidated both the promise and the pitfalls of integrating social media into the clinician-patient relationship. Unique considerations relevant to both cancer care and pediatric practice were reviewed. Moreover, we considered how to educate clinicians and develop ethically sound policy to allow for optimal interactions with patients using social media.


Jennifer Kesselheim, MD, MBE, EdM
Pediatric Oncologist
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center
Arnold P. Gold Foundation Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School, Boston

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