Wednesday 21 February 2018

Doctors can tweet and Facebook... but they need to be careful - say new guidelines

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Phone stock image
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Irish doctors are free to be on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook- but they need to be careful of what they say.

The advice is contained in a new guide to professional conduct and ethics for doctors released by their regulatory body the Medical Council today.

It acknowledges how social media can be used to the good to promote healthy habits and highlight useful research.

But medics must maintain standards and ensure there is no breach of a patient-doctor relationship.

Doctors here have taken to social media with enthusiasm and frequently use the platform to criticise the state of services and under-funding.

The updated guide, launched today by Medical Council President Freddie Wood, the retired cardiac surgeon today, follows wide consultation.

Key areas deal with patient safety including:

Special emphasis on the protection and welfare of vulnerable people, such as children or someone with a physical or intellectual disability, incapable of independent living. Doctors should be alert to the possibility of abuse of vulnerable people and notify the appropriate authorities.

New “Children First” legislation is pending and we will keep a watchful eye on developments, in case our Guide requires updating.

It warns that confidentiality is at the core of the doctor/patient relationship, but the duty to protect patient confidentiality must be balanced with the duty to share information in certain exceptional circumstances, for example, where it is in the public interest.

There is also updated advice for doctors who are changing shifts and they are reminded of the need to ensure there is proper hand-over of patients  to ensure  the doctor coming on duty is fully briefed on their condition.

There have been instances of cases where this has not been done and vital information was not passed on.

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