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Your doctor is unlikely to be your Facebook friend

Social media is a great platform for maintaining both personal and professional connections. You will find all conceivable businesses maintaining active pages on Facebook, Twitter and several other social platforms. Doctors too are increasingly trying to maintain an active presence on social media.

But any connections between doctors and their patients must maintain confidentiality, and not blur the clear lines between professional and personal relationships. Many physicians have professional pages on Facebook. This should not be viewed as any different from other professional businesses. But the content differs in several ways. Physicians’ pages are more focused on general health information, and how to access their services. Don’t expect to find your doctor sharing private matters like fancy weekend photos, or anything else that may be deemed intimate. They may have such content on their more private Facebook accounts, which you should not expect to be part of.

From your viewpoint, connecting with your doctor on Facebook makes a lot of sense. You can easily keep up to date with basic health tips, and in some cases ask some general medical questions or Inquire about appointments. But you should know where to draw the line. Keep within professional boundaries, and don’t delve into more specific health matters that may be troubling you.

Remember social media communications are generally insecure, and anybody out there may stumble onto some information that should be kept confidential.All confidential, intimate and complex medical communications must always be via digitally secure systems.Or in person at your doctor’s office.

But others have questioned whether purely social interactions between patients and their doctors should be outlawed. You and your doctor may have built a trusting relationship over the years, and may feel compelled to connect in other ways. There are no legal restrictions for such social media interactions, and some medical authorities have left the question open.

But a line must be drawn, and both you and your physician must limit what you are willing to share on social pages. Once professional lines are blurred, your relationship becomes something else.

I personally receive many Facebook ‘friend’ requests from some patients, and so do my colleagues. Don’t get offended if neither of us responds positively. I personally just ignore such requests, but always strive to pass on any relevant medical information and general advice. The opposite is also true, majority of doctors will not ask you to ‘befriend’ them on Facebook if you have been their patient. And if they do, you are at liberty to just ignore their requests as well.

Professional interactions must always uphold certain principles. You and your doctor know very well what those principles are. There is never any excuse for breach of confidentiality, or inappropriate relationships, even if it happens in cyberspace.

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