Why Doctors Don’t Add Patients As ‘Friends’ On Facebook

Why Doctors Don’t Add Patients As ‘Friends’ On Facebook
<a href="https://pixabay.com/users/WDnetStudio/">WDnetStudio</a> / Pixabay

Facebook is an online medium that could be used by doctors to reach out to their patients. However, it has been observed that they are not willing to instantly ‘Friend’ their patients on Facebook, and the reasons behind this are pretty obvious.

Getting connected with Facebook good for both

Getting connected with a physician’s office or group practice on Facebook will definitely be beneficial for patients as it will make it easy for them to remain updated with news, along with saving a lot of time and effort for doctor’s office.

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Physicians create public pages that are strictly professional and focus on medicine just like other businesses. The trend is catching up with most doctors, with some connecting with their patients through e-mail, but most are not willing to give patients a sneak peek into their personal lives, or even advise them on the medications via a private chat, says a report from CNN. They believe the line between personal lives and professional work should be clearly defined, and by adding patients as ‘Friends’ on Facebook, the line could get blurred. It could also give rise to privacy issues as a consequence of discussing specific medical concerns on Internet platforms.

Privacy issues discouraging doctors

Despite being advantageous for both parties, privacy is the one major concern that restrains doctors from fully adopting Facebook. In general, these social networking platforms are not digitally encrypted, thus raising the chances of information being stolen. The same concerns apply with other online communication tools such as email and text messaging. This implies that doctors sharing information with patients through such platforms could be held for breach of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the patient privacy law, says the report.

However, some changes could be seen in the stance of medical organizations towards internet platforms. This year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists softened its guidelines on the use of the social platforms such as Facebook. This group has now left it to physicians to decide for themselves whether they want to become friends on Facebook with their patients or not, said the report.

“If the physician or health care provider trusts the relationships enough … we didn’t feel like it was appropriate to really try to outlaw that,” said Nathaniel DeNicola, from the University of Pennsylvania. DeNicola helped in writing the ACOG guidelines.

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