Medics have been warned that adding patients to their social media network is a big mistake and could jeopardise their career. The British Medical Association has pointed out that doctors may face problems if they decide to befriend their patients on Facebook and Twitter.
The main problem is the fine line between personal and professional lives becoming blurred and has the potential to threaten any student nurse or doctor’s career.
The new guidance, titled ‘Using Social Media – Practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students’ addresses topics such as the ethical need to keep patient confidentiality which is as important online as it is in any other media. It expresses that it’s inappropriate to post comments relating to patients that are personal or derogatory, that doctors and medical students have an obligation to declare any conflicts of interest and defamation law can apply to any comments posted on the web in either a personal or professional capacity.
This follows a series of cases in which a number of NHS staff were suspended from work due to content posted on social media sites, including one member being suspended for being photographed on a hospital helipad.
Although many medical students and doctors use social media sites without having any problems, there is the chance that they are damaging their professionalism, but isn’t this true of any career?
There is a growing concern that posts by doctors could offend their patients and colleagues without even realising. Something posted innocently or as a joke could come across in a totally offensive manner. Vice versa, patients could be commenting on things that haven’t been analysed in a normal consultation.