Australian Doctors Told to Stay Off Facebook

The health-care industry is trying to figure out how to apply the doctor-patient relationship online. This has included a warning to Australian doctors about Facebook usage.

Following complaints about physicians’ unethical behavior like making fun of patients online, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) warned doctors to be cautious in using social networking sites like Facebook, according to Digital Journal.

The warning came from the AMA’s Council of Doctors-in-Training (AMACDT). Its Chairman, Dr. Michael Bonning told Australia’s Daily Telegraph, “Doctors have recently faced disciplinary action for their online behavior.”

AMACDT issued guidelines for general practitioners on how not to use Facebook. Here are some of the online behaviors warned against:

  • Having online relationships with current or former patients
  • Making online comments that could be offensive
  • Joining online chat groups that might be considered sexist, racist, or derogatory
  • Friending colleagues and patients online
  • Posting photos or videos doctors would not want patients in their workplace to see.

The AMA also offer tips for doctors on how to Google themselves so they can see how their Facebook profile appears to the public.

This seems to parallel the state of affairs in France, where a study found that 85 percent of doctors would automatically decline Facebook friendship requests from patients for fear the doctor-patient relationship would be compromised.

To what degree do you think doctors have to be cautious with their online profiles? Do you think adding patients as friends should be absolutely off-limits?

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