Doctor Patient Discussion on Facebook: Banned

There is an interesting article in E-Health Europe about how patients try to contact doctors on Facebook, the popular social networking site, and how doctors shouldn’t respond to them. In my “Medicine and Web 2.0” university credit course, we cover this important issue several times and I try to provide students with useful pieces of advice about how to avoid such problems.

The Medical Defence Union said it was aware of a number of cases where patients have attempted to proposition doctors by sending them an unsolicited message on Facebook or similar sites.

The medical defence body said it would be “wholly inappropriate” to respond to a patient making an advance in such a way.

Dr Emma Cuzner, MDU medico-legal adviser, said the pitfalls posed to doctors using social networking sites and inadvertently breaching patient confidentiality had already been well documented but the dangers of patients using the sites to approach doctors were less well publicised.

In an anonymised case highlighted by the MDU a female GP was asked out for a drink by a patient as she left the surgery. When she declined the patient contacted the doctor via Facebook and sent her a bunch of her favourite flowers which he had found out about from her freely available Facebook page.