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What Do You Do When Your Patient Posts About Their Experience With You on Social Media?

May 11, 2023

Social media use is fairly universal these days, and it is used for multiple reasons, including but not limited to social support, information gathering or giving, and fundraising.

Clinicians are generally aware that we should not share information about patients, even if they are not identified, because that could violate patient confidentiality. But what if the reverse is true? What if the patient or family is posting about their experience with you on social media?

How does one approach this? What are the issues that must be considered?

This week, Pediatrics is early releasing an Ethics Rounds entitled “Ethical Issues with Patient-Provider Interactions in an Evolving Social Media Landscape,” by Dr. Imogen Clover-Brown, a pediatrics resident at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Texas Medical Branch (10.1542/peds.2022-060066).

I would very much encourage everyone to read this Ethics Rounds. The authors bring up multiple issues that never occurred to me, such as:

  • Is the parent who is posting on social media violating her child’s privacy?
  • If the clinician views the social media posts that pertain to the hospitalization, will that violate the parent’s privacy? Will it affect the clinician-family relationship and adversely impact on the clinician’s ability to care for the child?
  • What if the parent is recording conversations with hospital staff without their consent?
  • What if there is concern that the parent’s online presence is impacting their decision-making about the child?

I suspect that the social media policies of most health care organizations are not keeping up with the recent advances in social media. This Ethics Rounds will help you to think about these issues and how you might deal with similar issues, should they arise.

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