Although healthcare IT has transformed over the years, patients have held the same expectation: to be in the care of a personable doctor who will communicate effectively and make health decisions that are in the patient’s best interest. However, doctors have constantly struggled to navigate the boundaries of a patient-doctor relationship and the use of new technology, unfortunately, could potentially complicate the issue. Below we discuss the Do’s and Don’t’s of doctor-patient interactions on online platforms.
Do. Respond to patient messages regarding their questions or health concerns, and encourage patients to schedule an appointment through online appointment scheduling if an in-person visit is needed.
Do not inquire about personal topics irrelevant to a patient’s health, just as you would in an appointment. Keep the communication solely centered on the health condition and prognosis.
Many healthcare organizations are turning to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to promote their practice and increase patient engagement.
Do. Create public Facebook pages about your practice that people can follow. Post or tweet articles that are relevant to your specialty or will inform patients of a current health topic.
Do not become “friends” with your patients on Facebook or “follow” them on Twitter from your professional or personal account, according to the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards. This could blur professional and social lines. Further, social media breaches could violate HIPAA regulations putting you and your practice at risk of malpractice.
Many tech-savvy doctors are creating websites to display their specialty, background, and services. These websites offer patients the ability to research potential doctors and contact their practices.
Do. Put your medical specialty and background on your website to give patients a good overview of you as a doctor. Post articles related to your specialty or the services you provide.
Do not divulge very personal information that you would not feel comfortable sharing with a patient in person. For example, a general description about yourself can offer effective insight, whereas uploading family pictures from a recent family vacation could distract the viewer away from the main goal of your website.
Where’s the Balance?
Although physicians struggle with finding a balance between an informed professional and a trusted confidant, there are several ways to find the parity. In sum, use technology to listen to and engage your patients while keeping the conversation centered on patient health. Patient trust will be gained organically and foster a healthy doctor-patient relationship.