Sounding Off on Social Media: The Ethics of Patient Storytelling in the Modern Era.
Acad Med. 2015 Feb 16;
Authors: Wells DM, Lehavot K, Isaac ML
Use of social networking programs like Facebook and Twitter, which enable the public sharing of diverse content over the Internet, has risen dramatically in recent years. Although health professionals have faced consequences for clearly unethical online behavior, a relatively unexamined practice among medical students is the disclosure of patient care stories on social media in a manner that is technically compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, yet is ethically questionable. In this Perspective, the authors review three such cases in which students do not specifically reveal a patient's identity but share details of a personal nature, motivated by a variety of intentions (e.g., a desire to reflect on a meaningful experience, reaching out for social support in the event of a patient's death). Using ethical principles and professional policy recommendations, they discuss aspects of these postings that are potentially problematic. Consequences include the possibility of undermining public trust in the profession, inadvertently identifying patients, and violating expectations of privacy. The authors recommend that medical schools explicitly address these issues across the preclinical and clinical curricula and emphasize that patient-related postings on social media may carry inherent risks both to patients and to the profession.
PMID: 25692559 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]