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Council survey highlights importance of confidentiality in doctors’ social media use

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted to inform the development of new Medical Council guidance on professional conduct and ethics.

Feedback on doctors’ use of social media found that 76 per cent of people agreed that if their doctor posted personal information on social media such as Facebook or Twitter, it would make them think differently about his or her professionalism.

Some 96 per cent agreed with the statement that a doctor should never share patient information on social media.

Feedback from doctors has also pointed to the issue of social media as one requiring additional guidance from the Medical Council.

The Medical Council recently published a new draft Guide for Professional Conduct and Ethics (8th Edition) for consultation, which includes additional guidance on social media use by doctors.

In relation to telemedicine, on which the Medical Council has also updated its guidance, the report found that only 3 per cent of patients stated that they have used online services for the purpose of receiving diagnosis, having a consultation or to be given a repeat or new prescription. Some 16 per cent have used phone services for clinical healthcare.

Of the patients who have not used telemedicine services, 70 per cent said that they were very or quite unlikely to do so over the next year.

The survey also found that doctors remain the most trusted profession in Ireland, with 91 per cent of patients agreeing that they trust their doctor to tell the truth. Further findings include:

• Nine in ten (91 per cent) patients were satisfied with the doctor they attend most often

• Nine in ten patients (88 per cent) had never experienced anything requiring a complaint about a doctor

• The majority of people who had seen media coverage of fitness to practise inquiries involving doctors felt that it either improved or made no difference to their impression of doctors.

Ms Catherine Whelan, Interim CEO of the Council, said “To find that the vast majority of patients are satisfied with the care they receive from their doctor is very encouraging, and demonstrates to us once again, just how pivotal it is for doctors to establish and maintain a relationship with their patients based on trust. Our aim at the Medical Council is to guide and support doctors so that trust continues to underpin the patient-doctor relationship whether it’s in person or online.”

For more information on the survey go to:

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