MMA: Patient info not for open discussion

A patient undergoes an ultrasound scan. Patient information should not be shared in open forums, says Dr Ashok. ― Malay Mail pic
A patient undergoes an ultrasound scan. Patient information should not be shared in open forums, says Dr Ashok. ― Malay Mail pic

PETALING JAYA, June 3 — Social media has given rise to issues regarding patient confidentiality, said Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Ashok Zachariah Philip.

With widespread use of social media platforms such as Facebook, medical practitioners are not excluded from using them to channel their experiences, joys and frustrations.

However, Dr Ashok said doctors were discouraged from using social media as a forum to discuss patient information.

He said doctors in general do not reveal patient details, but would sometimes share information with other doctors for discussion or consultation.

“The problem with Facebook and such, even if something is discussed in a closed group, people can still share the information,” he warned.

He said patient information and histories should not be shared in open forums, and should only be done in traditional channels, such as bulletin boards.

Dr Ashok said the sharing of a patient’s photographs could only be done with the patient’s consent. Failure to have consent would be unethical, even if the patient was unidentifiable.

“If found guilty of breach of confidentiality, the doctor may face action by the association as well as the Health Ministry,” he said.

In reference to the recent criticism on a Facebook post where a mother suffered third degree tears during a home birth, Dr Ashok said it was not right for the doctors to use such crude language.

“We, as doctors, are human as well, and we may be angry over the result of a patient ignoring the doctor’s advice.

“However, we still have to treat the patient in the best way possible, and in no way suggest causing more harm,” he said.

He said it was improper for the doctors to comment publicly about the mother, whose medical history was unknown to them.

He said it was not uncommon for mothers to deliver at home.

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