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Caution urged over social network sites

8 September 2011

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Practices are advised to be cautious in responding to patient complaints on social networking websites for fear of landing themselves in “hot water”.

An increase in patients turning to social media to voice their criticisms and complaints has brought about a risk for doctors, claims the Medical Protection Society (MPS).

The MPS is urging doctors to think through the consequences of posting potentially damaging knee-jerk responses to criticism.

Nick Clements, head of medical services at MPS, recommends doctors talk with their employer, medical school or medical defence organisation as an initial step to discuss the situation and decide on the best course of action.

“Although a negative comment on social media may be seen as upsetting, damaging to your professionalism, or even possibly defamatory, it is important to keep a cool head and look at the issues objectively, and to maintain the doctor-patient relationship where possible,” said Clements.

“Do not respond rashly or intemperately, as this can make matters worse.”

As an increasing number of new websites and forums emerge, the MPS claims the responsibility to monitor and moderate content falls to the host websites.