Doctors and Social Media

More doctors are raising concerns about images, comments, and friendship requests on social media.

The number of doctors contacting it with concerns about Facebook, blogs, and other websites rose by 40% from 2011 to 2012, from 36 in 2011 to 60 in 2012.

Common concerns included complaints and allegations made about doctors by patients on social networking sites, friendship requests from patients, and doctors who had found themselves in difficulties after posting comments and images online.

After recent articles in the national media highlighting doctors who have shared confidential patient information on social media, but doctors to be cautious when sharing information online and to consider the GMC’s social media guidance.

Social media could help doctors to network more effectively and give patients more access to healthcare information but there are risks too, particularly when it comes to confidentiality.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are informal environments, and so it is easy for doctors to let their guard down and not follow the same rules as they would offline.

However, the rules of confidentiality apply as much when posting online as they do to when you are chatting to a friend on a night out.

The doctors must have to remember that when something is shared through social media, it may not just be their friends and family who see it . . . [it] could potentially be shared with strangers too.

Doctors are increasingly using Twitter and other social media to support networking efforts at conferences and other events. Looks at what doctors are gaining from this move between online and face to face interactions

While Facebook and LinkedIn are being used to set up online groups of doctors with shared interests, Twitter has established itself as one of the primary ways in which doctors network online. In doing so, it has changed how doctors interact when they meet face to face, a phenomenon recognised by professional bodies as well as individual doctors.

Its clear that social media is having a significant effect on how healthcare professionals communicate and form networks, it’s important that we, as doctors, are at the forefront of this global change in communication.

The doctors need to consider carefully how they use social media ours rights as doctors come with responsibilities and these apply in the online world as well as in the consulting room.

Following a few other doctors, and over time built up a nice cohort of people; twitter is also a useful way of finding out who will be attending an upcoming event.

The good news is that when you meet people you know from Twitter face to face there are usually few surprises we can communicate a lot of our personality in 140 characters.

When you follow someone for a while you have more of a measure of who they are and what they do. Certainly my most fruitful collaborations have come that way.

However strange situations can arise from connections originating in social media. Just lately when I go to conferences and events I end up talking with Twitter contacts who recognise me from my Twitter picture this is often embarrassing if I don’t recognise them and have to spend a bit of time figuring out who they are. I now make sure I look at people’s Twitter profile pictures as well as their tweets.

Meeting people in real life whom had previously known only through Twitter was very weird. You know them, but you don’t. You instantly have loads to chat about, despite never having met previously.

Through Twitter, I am now in touch with people I would never have met without social media, That is one of the reasons I love it. It is a great leveller.

Dr. Jorge Bernal

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