The Mayo Clinic is one of the top healthcare providers to leverage social media. Their main microblogging platform is Twitter and they have over 1 million followers and counting! They use social media to ultimately empower patients to be their own advocate by using these platforms as mediums for accessible health information as well as a bi-directional conversation between patient and providers or patient to patient on any health related questions/concerns. Can it ever get out of hand? Hmmm…
Providers use Twitter to follow patients to obtain feedback/data on patient needs. The Mayo Clinic initiated a discussion about privacy concerns on an article last year that started with the phrase:
“My gynecologist just followed my vagina on Twitter”
Twitter is a powerful microblogging platofrm for providers to disseminate timely succinct health education and for patients to share or ask questions. Furthermore, it provides 360 degree data for health institutions on culture, needs and patterns of its target audience. There is a great deal of benefits.
Now the question that emerges…Is this creepy or unethical?
People who say no:
1. Implied knowledge that Twitter puts you in public. Just like how it’s ok to make fun of Taylor Swift since public surveillance is part of her job much like having a Twitter account.
2. Utilitarianism: Promote greater good in health by obtaining info on following patients
People who say yes:
1. Crosses over patient/provider boundary
2. Patients feel uncomfortable (emotional discomfort/harm)
3. Mean doesn’t justify the end
Despite disagreements there is an ultimate ethical concern as long as we have people who feel uncomfortable.
How do we address the ethics of this?
Let patients initiate!! Providers, public health leaders should never proactively seek to follow patients or people they work with. The power dynamic becomes an ethical issue where mutual consent is not always there. If patients initiate, there is confirmed consent established.