Medical Influencers

The Rise and Risks of Medical Influencers

Medical influencers have become a popular source of health information online, particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Influencers use their online presence on social media platforms to generate interest in topics, brands or products. With 56.2 million people in the UK using social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and X, it is clear that online influencers have a huge potential audience, this makes them a powerful tool for health promotion. This is not lost on commercial organisations and we increasingly see medical influencers receiving payment to promote brands or endorse products. There are growing numbers of well meaning medics jumping online to help provide advice to the public; unfortunately sometimes these good intentions can go wrong! Like all technology, if not used responsibly, social media can create safety and liability issues. Additionally, because social media changes rapidly, standards and best practices are not always well defined.

The GMC’s Doctors’ use of social media provides guidance on the use of social media and the standards expected. There is also helpful guidance by the British Medical Association (BMA), Ethics of social media use, both documents provide guidance on confidentiality, maintaining professional boundaries and issues such as dealing with trolling and harassment.


People generally have less experience of advertising on social media and it is not always easy to recognise what constitutes an advert online. Therefore, it is important that medical influencers have a clear understanding of when content posted on social media counts as advertising.

The Advertising Standards Authority, Recognising ads: Social media and influencer marketing rules, state that adverts must be obviously identifiable and understood by the audience. Adverts on social media must be declared prominently at the beginning of the post, #AD is often used. Any label needs to be visible regardless of the device used, so it is important to consider how a post will look when accessed on different devices.

An influencer who receives a payment from a brand must be aware that any resulting posts promoting the brand then become subject to consumer protection law, which is enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Receiving gifts, products or services free is considered as payment and therefore the audience must be made aware that the post has been ‘paid for’ and if this is not clear then the post risks breaking the law.

The GMC provide detailed guidance on Using social media as a medical professional which says the following at paragraph 12:

“If you use social media to advertise your services, or use your professional position to promote or endorse any other services or products, you must be open and honest about any interests you have that may influence (or could be seen to influence) the recommendations you make. You must also comply with relevant law, guidance and regulatory codes including those from the Committee of Advertising Practice, the Advertising Standards Authority, and the Competition and Markets Authority”.

Choose wisely what to post

Part of maintaining a professional presence online is maintaining professional boundaries and monitoring the quality of information posted. Information posted should be accurate, current, objective, and unambiguous. It is important when posting information that you ensure that you are sufficiently knowledgeable in that area. As a medical influencer, you may be contacted for medical advice.

Be careful about giving advice to an individual who is resident in a country in which you are not registered with the medical regulator or indemnified to provide care.

Signposting people to sources of information and providing general advice is unlikely to be problematic. However, you should refrain from giving any kind of personalised health advice. Both the GMC and BMA advise against this type of interaction. Offering medical advice could arguably establish a duty of care, which may then lead to a GMC complaint or clinical negligence claim if the person is dissatisfied with the advice given.


Remember the same principles of confidentiality apply whether you are communicating offline or online. Social media should never be used to discuss individual patients, living or dead. Sharing a photograph of a patient’s condition or posting details of a clinical case, even if anonymised, without patient consent constitutes a breach of confidentiality.

Be mindful that even when posting comments on social media about your working day, you may inadvertently breach confidentiality.


There are many benefits to the public from the rise of medical influencers. They can serve many useful purposes in healthcare for example, enhancing information sharing and health promotion. However, with these opportunities come risks, therefore when using social media in your professional capacity it is important to be clear about professional boundaries, conflicts of interest, quality of information and whether the item you are posting would be classed as advertising.

Finally, in Para 101 of Good Medical Practice, the GMC states:

“You must make sure that you have appropriate and adequate insurance or indemnity that covers the full scope of your practice. You should keep your level of cover under regular review”.

Reviewed and updated May 2024

Originally published March 2022

This document does not constitute legal or medical advice and should not be construed as rules or establishing a standard of care. We recommend that you seek independent legal and/or professional advice in relation to your legal or medical obligations or rights. Premium Medical Protection Limited is the owner of this material and its contents are protected by copyright law ©2022. All such rights are reserved.

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