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A Social Diagnosis: The GMC's Prescription for Social Media Use by Medical Professionals
By: Christine Geraci
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I'm sick as a dog right now. Before I knew what exactly was wrong (it's strep throat), I did the one thing doctors usually tell you NOT to do: I "Googled." I couldn't help it — all that information available to you in a mere second is hard to resist. 
 
Many of my friends also Google when they or their children are sick. And an increasing amount of them are now using the social channels we frequent to get informal medical advice from friends — even going so far as to post pictures asking "What is this? Should I see a doctor about it?" Ick.
 
Yet doctors and nurses are now getting into the social media game with much more frequency.
 
Medical professionals are beginning to use social media to communicate with patients and colleagues with so much frequency that the General Medical Council is creating guidelines for how it expects them to use social networks. 
 
Unfortunately, this appears to have come about after some medical professionals made some really bad moves — namely violating patient confidentiality and privacy rules via social media. Some were fired for making comments about patients online. Four nurses in the U.S. were fired after they posted a picture of themselves with a human placenta online (um, why would you do that?).
 
Even though these guidelines are more reactive than proactive, it's a good move by the GMC. 
 
I don't know of any doctors in my area who do this, but I have heard of doctors using social tools, smartphones, and the like to ask patients to send them pictures of various ailments for instance diagnoses without patients having to come into the office. 
 
Sounds like every medical practice should address the use of social and digital tools for professional AND personal purposes with policies and guidelines. 
 
What do you think? Does your doctor use social media to interact with patients?


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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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