Should Doctors Google Patients?

from the information-wants-to-be-free dept

We recently had a story about an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics that recommended doctors avoid using social networks entirely, because of potential ethical issues related to patient information. That seems a bit extreme. It seems like there would be ways to use social networks without compromising your ethics. However, a recent article in the LA Times takes this discussion a step further. Beyond discussing social networking usage and “friending” between doctors and patients, it wonders if it’s okay for doctors to do internet searches on their patients to find out more info about them (or even see if they’re lying about stuff). Of course, this seems like a bit of a flip side to the typical complaint from some doctors who don’t like that patients are searching for information online themselves, though usually more for self-diagnosis. The article suggests that it really depends on the doctor, the patient and the situation, but it seems that many doctors are afraid to search for info about their patients.

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Comments on “Should Doctors Google Patients?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The question is not whether doctors may look at publicly available and publicly posted information (for which there is absolutely no expectation of privacy), but rather how heavily they may rely on it.

There is always the what if scenario of: “But like what if like some guy hates you and makes a web page posing as you and how much you want to get AIDS and you go to your doctor and he’s all like, ‘dude, do you have AIDS?’ and you’re all like, ‘no way man’, but then he’s all like, ‘but your web page says you want to get it.'”

nsaamiller (profile) says:

What doc has the time?

Time to google patients? Not likely. Hell, I have hardly enough time to spend doing a good job evaluating, deciding, and informing, let alone snooping on my patiens.

Tempest in a teacup. Maybe the authors of the JMEdEthics article really need to get out and talk to docs who spend their days working for a living. The LATimes article is a joke, as far as I can see. Is there a “silly season” for health writers, or is it post Obamacare mania?

NullOp says:


I would absolutely encourage docs to google their patients! Not only could it possibly allow a better understanding of the patient but, even more importantly, it could potentially warn the doc about possible problematic behavior on the part of the patient. As far as docs ‘friending’ patients…it’s probably not a good idea. I would have the receptionist do it!

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