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Doctors Social Media – Internet and Patients

The British Medical Association (BMA) has warned doctors, nurses and other health care providers that they should maintain etiquette while using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and internet forums.

Most important of these advises are that doctors and health care providers should not accept Facebook requests from current and former patients and should consider adopting “conservative privacy settings” where possible. The guidelines were called, “Using social media: practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students”.

The guidelines further add that doctors and medical students have an ethical and legal duty to protect patient confidentiality that applies to internet as well as other doctors social media. It is deemed inappropriate to post informal, personal or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues on public internet forums. Defamation law can apply to any comments posted on the web made in either a personal or professional capacity the guidance warns.

According to Dr Tony Calland, chairman of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, “Social media presents doctors and medical students with opportunities, as well as challenges. The BMA guidance is important as it provides doctors with the tools to prevent potential social media pitfalls. Health professionals should be wary of who could access their personal material online, how widely it could be shared and how it could be perceived by their patients and colleagues.”

Similar guidelines are applicable for nurses say Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) earlier this week. Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, chief executive of the NMC, said, “I would advise nurses and midwives to exercise caution when using social networking sites. They could risk their registration if they share sensitive information, make inappropriate comments, or befriend patients online.” Doctors social media is one of the hottest topics on the internet right now for health professionals worldwide.

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