This General Medical Council advisory document for Doctors comes into effect from the 22 April 2013.
I think that the advice should’ve been much clearer as if you follow the guidelines to the letter (any material written by a Doctor could “reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely” and it is appreciated that “content uploaded anonymously can, in many cases, be traced back to its point of origin“) there really should be no GMC registered Doctor posting content online anonymously.
I think this isn’t very well thought through. Some of the very best contributors to social media discussions (not just about healthcare) are Doctors who wish to remain anonymous or just want to be allowed to share their opinions as a member of society when they’re not working. The workload of Doctors is tough enough that there should be some capacity in this guidance for them to be able to use social media when taking time out from work.
I can also see a multitude of ways that this could impact on Patient safety as it’s quite clear that whistle blowing Doctors don’t have an easy time. It’s possible that this guidance document itself could make any Doctor who leaks a Patient safety issue anonymously liable to not meeting their duties as a Doctor (because they will have run foul of guidance by trying to do it anonymously in the first place).
Need for every Doctor to have a Professional Profile
Im surprised the GMC isn’t doing something to provide this for registered Doctors on the Medical Register or at least suggesting to Doctors what would be considered to be an appropriate professional profile eg. is a Linkedin profile or About.me page enough or should they have a dedicated page on their clinics secure website?
Long and short of it is that every Doctor who is active today on Twitter, Facebook or even posting a comment on a news website is now advised to have a professional profile where they openly list all their “financial or commercial interests in healthcare organisations or pharmaceutical and biomedical companies” and any possible “conflicts of interest” they may have.
What I think is missing
I think the GMC has missed out on several key opportunities it has to take the lead here. Here are a few things I would’ve implemented if I was involved with this initiative at the GMC:
> Expand the GMC Doctor register to include an About.me style professional profile page (or at least a link to the Doctor’s own page).
> Social Media tracking: I’m surprised there isn’t a section of advice on this as it’s obviously a very challenging area for Healthcare Professionals to understand eg. GP Surgery bans Patient over offensive Twitter post
> The educational opportunity that the GMC has could’ve been complemented by sharing regular (CPD approved) videos to help Doctors understand and keep abreast of the changing social media landscape.
> More focus on the opportunities that social media and social media tools can provide to Doctors eg. how you can manage/respond to online reviews, why you might want to blog, the advantages of Professional networking, how RSS feeds can help you learn, the Patient educational opportunities that social media provides, etc.
> Just as social media is itself a moving target I think there was a missed opportunity to make the guidance document itself more interactive and wiki styled rather than as a PDF as there is a still no right/wrong approach to how a Doctor should use social media.
What did you think of the guidance document? What would you have added?