October 16, 2014

Ethical Considerations for Using Social Media in Medical Research

Social media are becoming increasingly integrated into both the clinical and the research dimensions of emergency medicine. They can provide methods for sharing crucial information to targeted individuals or groups in a rapid fashion. As a result, investigators conducting emergency research under the exception from prospective informed consent requirements are beginning to turn to social media platforms as they engage in required community consultation and public disclosure activities before their research begins. At present, there are limited data regarding how effectively social media have been used for performing those consultation and disclosure activities. This article offers investigators four specific areas to consider before using social media in consultation and outreach efforts. First, understand the forms of outreach social media platforms can provide. Second, recognize how those outreach methods relate to the specific goals of community consultation and public disclosure. Third, consider whether or not the intended audiences of community consultation and public disclosure will be available via social media. Finally, think about how social media outreach efforts will be measured and assessed before consultation and disclosure activities are under way.


Acad Emerg Med. 2014 Oct;21(10):1151-1157