Thursday, December 16, 2010

Doctors on Facebook risk compromising doctor-patient relationship

Doctors with a profile on the social networking site Facebook may be compromising the doctor-patient relationship, because they don't deploy sufficient privacy settings, indicates research published online in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The authors base their findings on a survey of the Facebook activities of 405 postgraduate trainee doctors (residents and fellows) at Rouen University Hospital in France. Half those sent the questionnaire returned it.

Almost three out of four respondents (73%) said they had a Facebook profile, with eight out of 10 saying they had had a presence on the site for at least a year. Those with a profile tended to be slightly younger than those who didn't.

One in four (24%) logged on to the site several times a day, but almost half (49%) logged on once a day or several times a week. The rest were rather more infrequent users of the site.

Almost half believed that the doctor-patient relationship would be changed if patients discovered their doctor held a Facebook account. But three out of four said this would only happen if the patient was able to access their profile.

Virtually all (97%-99%) displayed sufficient personal information for them to be identified, including their real name and their birth dates. And 91% displayed a personal photo. Just over half displayed their current post (55%) while 59% provided information on their current university training site.

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