This study in the Journal of Medical Ethics caught the eye of the media this week. French medical residents believe that insufficient privacy protection on Facebook has the potential to impact the doctor-patient relationship.
I’m not sure if this is brilliant or obvious.
Here’s a fact: A patient’s knowledge about his doctor has the potential to influence their relationship. That influence can be positive or negative depending upon what’s shared and the values of the patient.
It’s interesting that before social media there were no studies documenting that public foolishness by physicians has the potential to negatively impact the doctor-patient relationship. That’s probably because we didn’t need statistical proof to tell us that acting like an idiot in public makes us look bad.
Facebook doesn’t change that. Information does move faster now. Doctors need to exercise discretion while sharing their stories, beliefs and passions. Everything we share is public. It doesn’t end when you walk out of the exam room.
But while physician disclosure comes with risk, there’s the chance that the information will break down barriers and bring us closer to our patients.
Let’s do another study and ask what the patients think.