GPs should avoid indiscreet postings on social media

CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica

GPs and other doctors should be careful of making indiscreet comments to so-called “closed” social media groups, according to the MDU (Medical Defence Union), OnMedica reports.

The defence body’s warning comes after a discussion on a Facebook group used by GPs was criticised in a national newspaperfor the language it used when discussing patients.

In addition, figures recently published by The BMJ revealed that the General Medical Council (GMC) carried out 28 investigations related to doctors’ use of Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp between 1 January 2015 and 30 June 2017.

The MDU said doctors should remember the need to act professionally and avoid discussing confidential information on closed social media groups, from which information could be passed on inappropriately.

GMC guidance for doctors on social media says: “You must not use publicly accessible social media to discuss individual patients or their care with those patients or anyone else. You must not bully, harass or make gratuitous, unsubstantiated or unsustainable comments about individuals online.”

Dr Ellie Mein, MDU medico-legal adviser, said: “Medicine is a stressful profession and social media forums can provide a useful outlet to discuss the pressures of the job.

“However, even though many forums used by doctors allow discussions in ‘members only’ areas, it’s important to be aware that comments may reach a wider audience.

“These ‘closed groups’ can create an illusion of security but it’s not always possible to know who will be accessing and sharing posts. It’s important to think carefully before you comment and to consider if you would be happy for your post to be shared, possibly with no reference to the original context in which it was made.

“For these reasons, it’s important to remain professional at all times when using social media and not to discuss information which could be identifiable.”

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