So, Is your doctor spying on your tweets? Let’s find out in this short article below.
Social media raises medical privacy questions as a friend recently delivered to my attention a disturbing question from a psychiatrist working with a transplant team: Should she be checking the sobriety claims of liver transplant candidates by looking on their Twitter and other social media sites?.
That question merits discussion because it’s clear both doctors and patients are entering a world of medical privacy, regarding Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other outlets.
In this case, the doctor was asked to offer an opinion about a young man’s eligibility for a liver transplant. The medical team wouldn’t take him if he was still drinking. The doctor knew the young man had a history of a minimum of one binge-drinking episode a year ago that resulted in a car crash. Since then, both the would-be transplant candidate and his mother said he had been sober.
The psychiatrist was able to recommend admission to the liver transplant program when she received a photograph by email of the young man in a bar. Someone on the transplant team had seen the guy’s Twitter account. There he was, surrounded by booze in a picture he himself had posted.
If you are still drinking you are not going to get into any liver transplant program.
The picture was probably enough reason to shy away from the young man —meaning the likelihood of a death sentence.
The situation raises vital questions on privacy and doctor-patient relationships that simply didn’t exist before the social media explosion.
Should this doctor or any health care professional have checked the transplant candidate out on social media?
I can’t find any ethical guidelines that say no. But albeit ethical restrictions existed, it’s probably fair to assume that tons of doctors and people who work with them, many that grew up with Facebook and Twitter and therefore the like, are going to be tempted to try to do so.
How is that happening, you ask, when most doctors barely have time to evaluate or talk to a patient much less spend hours hunting on the Internet?
Remember that anyone within the doctor’s office or associated with them can check out your social media profile and rat you out. And tons of doctors make their living finding out the reliability of what patients say.
Take, for example, you say your back really hurts and you’re disabled — let’s take a peek at your Facebook page to ascertain if you manage to hit the tennis court, the jogging trails, or maybe the golf course.
Promise to be abstinent due to your venereal disease, then what are you doing on dating sites on Craigslist?
Swear to stay away from fatty foods and high-calorie treats—So, why did you write a review of your last barbecue on Yelp or Zagat?
Right now there are not many rules or guidelines for doctor-patient relationships over the web. Both now have new ways to check up on each other outside the office or exam room. If we’re going to trust each other then we must recalculate existing notions of medical privacy and confidentiality to suit an online world where there is not much of either.