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Anonymous online posts

Dec
18

Date: December 18th, 2013

Should patients believe info posted anonymously by docs?Recently, Britain’s General Medical Council released a new set of guidelines regarding medicine and social media. Generally, for doctors in United Kingdom, GMC really doesn’t believe that anyone identified as a physician should tweet/ post/ blog anonymously on the Internet. The council says that if a doctor identifies his or herself publicly through the social media, he or she should also make his name available. The public is highly likely to trust any online material that seems to be written by someone who represents him/ herself as a doctor. Such material is regarded to widely represent the views of this profession.

Is online medical information trustable?

To start, the council advises that the public shouldn’t believe or trust any online medical information, even if it is not anonymous when it is not dated and sourced. If there is no source to the information, then it is someone’s opinion. When the date is not available, you need to keep in mind the fact that medicine is evolving constantly and posts that are older than 2 years might appear to be recent while this might not be the case. This is why patients are advised to seek any info they need from government websites because posts are indicated when they were updated last and information is curated.

Good online medical data

However, when an anonymous doctor writes a blog and sources everything to sites that excellent, this doesn’t necessarily mislead the public. Any good online medical data must always come from sources with disclosed bias at the front. For instance, in case you are taking a look at info about a certain drug provided by a physician who receives money from a manufacturer, there should be clear differences from content about the same drug written by a doctor, who doesn’t take any money from a drug company. When you have no idea who wrote the post in question, this is the same as getting a candy/ chocolate from a stranger. Also, keep in mind that data that is sourced is by far much better compared to know the author’s name but to a greater extent, both of them are still preferable.

Also, GMS warns docs that it is quite easy to unmask their anonymity. For this reason, if you think that you are completely anonymous, you will be very shocked to see officials from Scotland Yard knocking at your door. Perhaps it is worth repeating, but this doesn’t really warrant censure. Keeping doctors on the note that they are not guaranteed of anonymity is the same as telling a person to avoid playing in traffic. This is because there are risks involved and a person should take them at their own peril. GMC seems to assume that shitty information is only posted by the anonymous doctors which might not always be true. For some, they will tend to argue that posting anonymously is their right but whichever the case, it is always good to be ethical in your profession.

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