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Doctor Trainees Sharing Private Patient Information on Facebook

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[ Social Media]

Social media has become the newest and possibly best way to expose just how stupid people can be. Last week we talked about the rocket scientist burglar who left Facebook’s equivalent of breadcrumbs to his front door. Hey, he is 19 years old and probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer anyway so maybe it’s not that unusual (actually it is but for this post we’ll say it). Well, let’s jump to the other end of the spectrum and find out just how stupid aspiring doctors can be when it comes to social media.

Yup, that’s right, doctors. Those people who need to go to school forever so they can carry huge loans into the workplace and then hopefully help us regular human beings stay healthy. According to an article by the BBC there appears social media shows no discrimination when it comes to exposing stupidity

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found examples of web gossip by trainee doctors sharing private patient stories and details.

Over half of 78 US medical schools studied had reported cases of students posting unprofessional content online.

One in 10 of these contained frank violations of patient confidentiality.

Most were blogs, including one on Facebook, containing enough clinical detail that patients could potentially be identified.

OK, so no one is perfect. I get that. Shouldn’t someone who is deemed “smart” enough to become a doctor at least use a little common sense when it comes to social media? This is more evidence, unfortunately, of just how disconnected from reality some Millenials appear to be (yes I am making an assumption that most aspiring doctors will fall into this group).

The overriding point of this is the need for boundaries when it comes to social media. While most would say that social media should be wide open all the time I say you are completely wrong. Imagine if human beings in general were allowed to be “wide open all the time” meaning what if there were no laws or boundaries for society in general. What would you have? I’ll let you take that one but anarchy is a likely result.

It is critical for organizations and professions to be defining exactly what is and is not acceptable as it relates to social media. While there is likely to be a degree of ‘figuring this out as it goes’ it is incumbent upon any responsible group to at least put in a social media policy framework. In Britain, at least, it appears as if the medical profession has not stepped up to the plate yet.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: “Patient confidentiality is paramount and medical students and doctors obviously need to be very careful about any information they post online.”

The UK’s regulator of doctors, the General Medical Council, does not have guidance that covers medics’ blogging.

But a spokeswoman advised doctors: “You must make sure that your conduct at all times justifies your patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.”

While this shows recognition of the need this is not even close to having a policy in place and rings very hollow. Does your organization have any policies in place as it relates to social media? Are you aware of any social media policies for professions in general? If so please share them with us because it looks like there is a real need for some simple common sense in the application of social media beyond just telling people what you are up to.

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Doctor Trainees Sharing Private Patient Information on Facebook
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