Should Doctors and Patients be Friends Online?

As many of my regular readers know, I have been a long time advocate for social media and I over the winter, I took a position as Social Media Manager for The Community Health Center, Inc. headquartered in Middletown, CT.

With that, I’ve joined the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Recently, we’ve been having a discussion about whether doctors and patients should be friends online. It started around the blog post, Boundaries in all their shades of gray.

It seemed like much of the discussion was focused on the doctors, and not on the patients, so I thought I would try to get a sense of what everyone else is thinking. So, I posted a question on Facebook:

Would You Like Your Doctors to Follow you on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites?

So far, close to 70 people have responded. Over half have answered ‘no’, which I find quite interesting and I plan on writing more about this soon.

First, however, I need to note various problems. This is not a scientific survey. Anyone can change their vote at any time. The folks being surveyed are my friends on Facebook as well as any friends of friends or other people that might have stumbled across the survey. The current results are shown, which may influence responses, and there is not exploration into the demographics of who has responded and only a comment section where some people explain their reasoning.

There have been various comments that reflect some of the underlying thoughts.

“Don't see why would it matter. I mean, it's not like my doctor is the only one who gets to see me naked ;-)”

“my dr. has his hands full trying to get my blood pressure under control.”

“I'd like my doc to be my friend on facebook, with the caveat that insurance companies NOT be able to use any info on my FB page to block access to care.”

“there's far too many ways institutions can use 'raw data' as implications, wrongly I might add.”

“I don't imagine there's anything on my Facebook that could negatively affect my care or coverage, but you know? People have been unpleasantly surprised by things like this before.”

“I don't get the issue... If you're hiding things from your doctor, that's kinda short sighted isn't it?

If I've learned anything from House, it's that the thing you are lying about is the thing that is killing you!”

“I'll bet it's a generational thing ... When you're almost 50 you remember a time when every little thing about you was not instantaneous knowledge to everyone who's ever met you.”

So, what do you think? Please, consider adding your vote and your comments.

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