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Chat Summary 249: Health Care Professionals: Speak your mind, but …

January 31, 2016

This post was originally published on Pat’s blog Days of Past Futures.

By Pat Rich (@pat_health)

On Wednesday, 77 engaged individuals participated in a lively tweet chat at #hcsmca about whether health care professionals have the same rights to free speech when using social media as other members of society. Read the complete #hcsmca chat 249 transcript.

twitter chat announcement #hcsmca Jan 27 at 9pm Eastern

Photo credit: derfelphotogen https://flic.kr/p/67UYEa

The impetus for this chat – which I moderated – were two recent disparate examples of what is happening with Canadian nurses and doctors who use social media. One example was that of a nurse facing disciplinary action from her regulatory body in Saskatchewan for posting details of her late father’s care on her Facebook page. The other referenced the positive response to a blog post by Ontario physician Dr. Gail Beck (@gailyentabeck) about the care received by her husband in a local hospital.

One of the points I wanted to make that was nurses and other allied health professionals who are employees of hospitals or health care institutions may face more restrictions than many physicians who are self-employed because the terms of their employment may limit their right to make public comments about their own institution.

So it is somewhat ironic that two days after the chat, The Medical Post newspaper for physicians posted a gated article quoting an unnamed Hamilton physician as stating many physicians had been threatened with the loss of hospital privileges for vocally criticizing the provincial government for recent pay cuts.

During the chat we were lucky enough to be joined by several physicians including Dr. Beck, who provided their perspective on their ability to use social media.

It quickly became clear from the comments made by these physicians and other informed observers that while health care providers can and should be urged to use social media to make comments and engage in debate, they must do so with caution.

It was noted not only that physicians and other providers all have a sacred duty to protect patient confidentiality but also that the statements made by health care providers may be scrutinized more closely and so extra caution must be taken in what they post.

To quote some notable tweets from that chat:

While the chat just scratched the surface of this important issue for those ‘in the tent’ – be they providers or patients – it was clear the provider voice on social media is an important one that needs to be encouraged.

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