Guidance issued this week recommends that GPs should not accept requests from current or former patients on Facebook or other social media.
It also suggests adopting high privacy settings on all social networking sites, including Twitter and other forums.
Dr Tony Calland, chair of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee, says: ‘Medical professionals should be wary of who could access their personal material online, how widely it could be shared and how it could be perceived by their patients and colleagues.’
‘Researchhas shown that while most doctors would not accept Facebook friend requests from patients, a minority said they would consider doing so.’
‘Yet accepting Facebook friends presents doctors with difficult ethical issues. For example doctors could be become aware of information about their patients that has not been disclosed as part of a clinical consultation.’
Medical students are also reminded that they need to present themselves well online.
Nick Deakin, a student from Bristol and a member of the BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee said: ‘We have heard that organisations are using the web to screen applicants as part of the recruitment process. Medical students and doctors need to be aware that any material on social media that shows candidates in a bad light could cost them a job and damage their career prospects.’
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