AU: Doctors caught revealing secret patient information in Facebook posts

Helen Pow reports:

Doctors have been disclosing sensitive medical information – and even mocking patients – on Facebook.

The NSW Medical Board has cautioned one doctor for making “flippant and derogatory” comments, and warned others to “think twice” before disclosing patient details on social networking sites.

Doctors are being warned the online conversations they think are private “may come back to haunt you”.

“The usual rules about confidentiality apply. But even when patients are not identified, members of the public may be upset by the content of such postings,” the board said.


The NSW president of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Michael Steiner, said he was astonished that doctors posted patient information on Facebook.

“Doctors need to remember at all times the importance of patient confidentiality,” Dr Steiner said. “I cannot believe that anyone would be silly enough to do this.”


Even if the doctors could be assured that their posts were indeed, private, it is still wildly inappropriate and unethical to discuss patients with others not involved in their care unless you have their consent.

Doctors have to know that they are either breaching confidentiality when they engage in such conduct or at the very least, risking that a patient will be identified. It needs to stop completely for all health care professionals. Yes, I know it is tempting to vent at times or to share or discuss an interesting case, and at times I need to firmly remind myself to adhere to my rule about never ever blogging about my patients or cases even though some might inspire me to blog about certain topics. But when one health care professional engages in such egregious conduct, the public will worry about whether they can trust any of us. So just stop it, please. Now.

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