Sharing Our Social Media Information with Physicians

PrivateEvery Tuesday at 8:30pm, I participate in the Healthcare Leadership (#HCLDR) Twitter chat. As someone still early in my healthcare communications career, I have found the chat to be educational and eye-opening. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss issues facing the healthcare industry with professionals who offer different perspectives than I face every day, such as patient advocates, health IT experts, CEO’s, and care coordinators.

This week’s topic was particularly interesting: “Privacy vs. Health: Would You Make The Trade?” Our discussion touched on whether it’s possible for a patient to share too much health information online, and whether it is appropriate for physicians to discuss that shared information with patients. When I found myself talking back to my computer (does anyone else do that?), I figured it was a sign that I was passionate about the topic.

I thought it was interesting that people were so against their physicians viewing the information they put on social media. We are frequently warned that the information we put on social media will be there forever. You never know who will see it – like your boss – so you need to be careful about what you put out there.

So why are people alarmed at the thought that their physician might view their social media information and make health recommendations based on what they see? Why is it worse for our physician to see our profile than a potential hiring manager or a member of the community? Shouldn’t your physician be your partner in health? I would love it if my physician put in the time to find ways that I could improve my health. I would also be happy if my physician dedicated time to learning more about me so that we could better connect.

People also suggested that physicians should warn patients about how the health information shared on social media could be used. That seems like too large a burden to place on physicians. By now, people should understand that the information they put on social media becomes public. Whether that is health information seems irrelevant; it is still information they choose to share.

Would you be uncomfortable with your physician viewing your social media profile? Why is that worse than your friends or coworkers viewing your information? I’d love to hear what you think.

Kate Gillmer

Kate is our social media connoisseur here at Jennings, helping manage the social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs) for many of our healthcare clients. If you want to know the pros and cons of HootSuite versus Sprout Social, Kate can tell you.

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