Chicago partner Jen Breuer spoke to BNA’s Health Law Reporter for a feature on the rise of doctor-to-doctor social media and the potential legal problems for health care providers.

Jen told BNA that the consulting opportunities presented by these sites, especially for doctors in rural areas where there may not be many other physicians, are highly beneficial but still troublesome.

Jen said she would want to know the purpose of a doctor-to-doctor site before advising a health care provider to participate.

She also commented on the problem of verifying that the person a doctor is speaking to in a chat room is qualified to consult on patient care. Jen said she would urge doctors to verify the identity of the person they are consulting online -- even though some sites advertise that they vet their members, that may not be sufficient to guarantee that only doctors are using the site.

Jen noted other potential legal issues such as giving advice to a doctor in another state where a practitioner is not licensed to practice or consult.

Doctors offering advice online also face malpractice risks, Jen said, at least if the facts would support a finding of a doctor-patient relationship between the advisor and the patient. The advice-seeker, also, would be vulnerable to a malpractice suit, depending on the extent to which he relies on the online advice.

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