Tuesday 16 January 2018

96pc say 'no' to doctors sharing patient information online

It is pivotal for doctors to establish a relationship of trust with their patients
It is pivotal for doctors to establish a relationship of trust with their patients

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A new survey commissioned by the Medical Council has revealed that 96 per cent of people are against doctors sharing patient information on social media.

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted to inform the Medical Council of public perception in relation to professional conduct and ethics.

Feedback on doctors’ use of social media found that 76pc of people agreed that if their doctor posted personal information on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, it would make them think differently about his or her professionalism.

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Interim CEO of the Medical Council, Catherine Whelan, said that the survey results demonstrate how pivotal it is for doctors to establish and maintain a relationship with their patients based on trust.

"Our aim at the Medical Council is to guide and support doctors so that trust continues to underpin the patient-doctor relationship whether it’s in person or online," she said.

Vice President of the Medical Council, Dr Audrey Dillon, said that the organisation is aware of patient concern in relation to social media and confidentiality.

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"We have tried to strike a balance by encouraging appropriate social media use by doctors, and we hope that members of the public along with doctors take the time to provide their views on this draft guidance”.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) published a position paper on social media in 2013.

The document advises doctors to avoid adding or accepting patients and/or their relatives into social networks. The paper also asks members to not post content regarding patients.

“Even if their symptoms have been anonymised, there is still the chance of identification. No content on social networking sites should ever reference patients or their specific case," it reads.

The IMO recognised the heightened difficulties for doctors in more rural areas, where there is a crossover between the social and the professional.

”You should treat your interactions online no differently than what you do in the physical world, with the same considerations to professionalism," they advised.

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