Doctors disregard confidentiality on Facebook

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Doctors often violate medical confidentiality on social networks

Doctors who publicly express their work on the Internet or share professional details with others often overlook the fact that they quickly violate the doctor's secret. Therefore, experts urge medical professionals to pay attention to what is communicated on Facebook and Co.

Ensuring that Patients Do Not Recognize Physicians are increasingly violating confidentiality when they use social networks such as "Facebook", "Twitter", "Wikipedia" or blogs and podcasts and post comments there or share details of theirs with others Exchange work. This can happen very quickly and unintentionally, so "the doctor should pay close attention to what he writes on his Facebook page so that the patient does not rediscover himself," said the junior professor of medical ethics at the Hannover Medical School (MHH), Daniel Strech, opposite the dpa news agency.

Legal “gray area” The medical ethicist had only recently carried out a study to investigate the extent to which the use of what is known as “Web 2.0” can be reconciled with medical professional ethics. Compliance with the duty of confidentiality turned out to be a particularly important aspect here - because that could quickly become problematic if doctors, for example, publish details about their work in blogs and via so-called "posts" on Facebook or "tweeds" on Twitter. "This is a gray area that can become legally relevant," continued the scientist.

Study on the agreement of medical values ​​and social media In the context of a systematic literature search in the English language meta database with medical articles "PubMed", the researcher came to the conclusion that "the integration of traditional core values ​​of medicine (privacy, confidentiality, one -to-one- interactions and formal behavior) and the culture of social media (which aims at openness, connection, transparency and informality) presents opportunities as well as challenges for medical personnel, "said the researcher in an article in the" Journal of Medical Internet Research ”.

Every second doctor uses Web 2.0 services. The risk of making a “mistake” on the Internet should not be underestimated, because more and more doctors are using social networks to offer advice to patients, to publish medical knowledge or to meet other colleagues to exchange about complicated cases. As early as 2011, a study by the Medical Intelligence Service showed that even then more than one in two physicians in private practice used the corresponding services for professional purposes - and the trend is rising. According to the graduate mathematician Tobias Hartz from the University Medical Center Mainz, a profile used exclusively for professional purposes cannot prevent the doctor's secret from being violated. Because here, networking with patients would often be sufficient to reveal treatment relationships.

Sufficient training of medical personnel Accordingly, in his opinion, doctors and nurses should be given intensive training in dealing with the offers of "social media" in order to point out the dangers and to comply with the obligation to maintain confidentiality at all times. But despite all the risks and dangers, according to medical ethicist Strech, the positive aspects of Web 2.0 should also be sufficiently taken into account. Ultimately, there would be a lot of new opportunities for doctors, from the professional exchange to the possibility of offering advice or other services over the Internet for patients regardless of their location. (No)

Image: Alexander Klaus /

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