Hospital Dr News

GMC asks for views on social media guide

Doctors are being asked their views on new GMC guidance on the use of social media.

The draft guidance says the standards expected of doctors do not change because they are communicating through social media rather than face-to-face, phone or email.

It acknowledges that social and professional boundaries can become unclear however and advises doctors to explain to patients that it is not appropriate to contact them via a personal profile on a social network site.

The guidance also advises doctors not to discuss individual patients or their care via social media and warns that once information is online it can be difficult to remove as others may distribute or comment on it.

Niall Dickson, GMC chief executive, said: “Online communication has become a key part of every doctor’s personal and professional life, and the use of social media is now very common. These newer forms of communication can be incredibly useful but it is important that the standards of behaviour and respect for others which are expected from doctors in the ‘real’ world are also observed online.”

The draft guidance states that doctors should treat colleagues fairly and with respect and should not bully, harass or make gratuitous, unsubstantiated or unsustainable comments about individuals online. They should usually identify themselves and be aware that any information uploaded anonymously will often be able to be traced back to its origin.

Commenting on the issue, Dr Sally Old, MDU medico-legal adviser, said: “The massive expansion in the use of social media sites in recent years presents great opportunities for doctors in terms of networking and keeping in touch with friends. But, as the new draft guidance from the GMC recognises, there are also some potential pitfalls, such as damage to a doctor’s professional reputation and the blurring of the doctor/patient boundary.

“Some of our members have been approached by patients via social networking sites, while others have been accused of acting unprofessionally when photos taken at social events or as private jokes appear on such sites. Other dangers can arise in forums and chat rooms where discussions about particular cases could fall foul of confidentiality rules.”

The MDU advises doctors to keep their profiles private and don’t accept requests from patients to become a friend; be professional in their comments; be cautious about posting anything that may bring the profession into disrepute; and be aware that anything uploaded on to a social networking site may be distributed further than intended.

The social media guidance is part of a consultation (which runs to 13 June) on a number of guides which include revisions of existing documents as well as new material.

This includes advice on personal beliefs and under what circumstances it might be appropriate for a doctor to talk about their own personal beliefs and how to handle their own conscientious objection to providing a specific treatment or procedure.

And maintaining boundaries, which focuses on professional boundaries between a doctor and patient, reporting inappropriate behaviour about a colleague and the role of a chaperone during intimate examinations.

Take part in the GMC’s consultation.

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2 Responses to “GMC asks for views on social media guide”

  1. joshek says:

    how about the gmc getting out of our faces and stick to the governance of the practice of MEDICINE?? the gmc has become a complete joke – coming up with one hoop jumping exercise after the other for doctors, all the while hordes of personnel that have neither seen med school from the inside nor are registered with the gmc de-facto practice medicine (e.g. prescribing nurses and pharmacists). is the gmc in charge of the practice of medicine in the uk or not?!?

  2. Paul says:

    “The MDU advises doctors to keep their profiles private and don’t accept requests from patients to become a friend”

    Ha ha ha ha! My GP seems to have uploaded his email address book to Facebook and LinkedIn. So now Facebook suggests that my GP might be someone I know, and LinkedIn suggests that I add him to my network!

    Does the GMC have any advice for patients when doctors request that the patient friend the doctor?

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