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I can see the sea from where I’m blogging, somewhere exotic and enjoying a chilled drink in the last of the afternoon sun. Well, actually it’s a hot chocolate in south Wales and I’m still wrapped up with five layers! As usual, on a short holiday, I’m communicating a lot by Facebook and Twitter, telling people what a fabulous time I’m having. Something we all do.
It’s very difficult not to stray into chat about work, how things are at the practice and so on. However, this is where deep traps, quick-sands and dragons live. It is so easy to mention a patient’s name, run down a manager or let people see how drunk you got the night before. All things that could lead you into trouble with your employer, the GDC or cause a complaint.
DDU dento-legal adviser, Sue N’Jie, writing in Dental Practice (online) says -
“Social media is a great source of entertainment and professional information, but your ethical responsibilities still apply in the virtual world. The GDC (General Dental Council) covers the issue (www.gdc-uk.org, 2013) directly in both its latest standards document and in supplementary guidance on using social media. Dental professionals should be in no doubt that the regulator will take a firm line with anyone found behaving inappropriately.”
We have to protect protect confidentiality at all times and in all arenas. Paragraph 4.2.3 of Standards for the Dental Team (www.gdc-uk.org, 2013) states –
"You must not post any information or comments about patients on social networking or blogging sites. If you use professional social media to discuss anonymised cases for the purpose of discussing best practice you must be careful that the patient or patients cannot be identified.”
I know from experience how difficult it is to anonymise data. Trying to say things about people even when you have tried to remove all identifying details is difficult. It probably is not worth the risk of this person being spotted by some tiny bit of information or blemish in an image.
Ms N’Jie also reminds us to be wary of accepting a friend request from a patient, as the GDC’s supplementary guidance warns dental professionals to ‘think carefully before accepting’. It is important to be more aware of your ethical obligations than the need to make new contacts.
Your behaviour online is judged in just the same way as your behaviour in the street. Making rude comments about people, posting images of antisocial behaviour (yes, that means falling over in the pub!) and making inflammatory accusations are not acceptable in social media. Risk manage your public persona just as you would the image of your practice or your family.
Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert Dental Contributor