It is a total irony. It is like the two ends of a coin, that can never meet. Social media and confidentiality. The very essence of social media is for some persons to have access to who you are, your unique personality, your ups and downs. Social networks are designed so that you can never be ‘alone’. A selected audience have access to YOU.

But here comes ‘Confidentiality’. Secrecy is the game. Nobody is to know what is hidden. Confidentiality pre-supposes there is something vital you seek to protect, which must never come to light. Now you understand the irony at hand.

The practice of Medicine, from the very beginning, is built on ‘confidentiality’. This concept, like physical consultation, is what makes medicine tick. Patients readily visits a hospital, seeking medical attention, because they believe their ‘problem’ would never be divulged, even in death. This makes it seem like ‘Doctors are in a cult’, because they can only tell fellow colleagues, and to no one else, about that which should be secret.

Doctors have struggled to uphold this virtue in their practice. Any student found wanting in this basic principle may be kicked out of med school. In all the years of a doctor’s training, he is thought “to always respect the opinion of a patient and never expose the events in his/her consulting room”. Most doctors, on graduation, know that this is not debatable. But time and event are threatening this age long concept.

Social media thrives on exposure. It thrives better when more users are exchanging views about a problem, or topic. This is a big readjustment. It requires a new breed of doctors, who can paddle through the slippery slopes of social media and still remain level headed as regards the utmost secrecy of information gotten from users on social media.

On My Twitter account, a follower sent me a direct message seeking to know who we could reconcile the secrecy of information gotten and the opposite sided nature of social media. I answered him the best way I can, but more concerns about the effects social media would have on confidentiality of patients data, should be anticipated.

Social media doctors must begin to think along this line for patients to have continued trust in the system. Those age long tradition should not be jettisoned, rather it should be modified to suit the needs of the time.

Secrecy should be the watch word of social media doctors. This would require patients get subscribed, via a double opt in format, to your e-register. This would fore close any down side to ‘huddling’ for users onto your portal. Other ways of ensuring secrecy is to get a water-tight passworded portal. Newer ways and techniques of ensuring the confidentiality of users, are being developed even as you read this article.

Social media skill is an added feature in this age and time. Patients are beginning to take the driver seat when it comes to their health. The role of doctors would now include guiding these users to that optimal health care they want. So doctors must unlearn the old ways and put on the toga of the new way – which is balancing social media use and confidentiality.



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