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Facebook gag fear hits doctors
Facebook gag fear hits doctors

Health professionals including doctors and nurses could face new rules when using social media such as Facebook and Twitter, even for posts about their private lives.

A draft policy paper from the agency that registers 14 health professions, including dentists, pharmacists and physiotherapists, warns that people who breach rules could face de-registration.

But some doctors warned yesterday it smacked of Big Brother and more red tape.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency's consultation paper, leaked to _The West Australian _, was sent to some health groups for feedback last month. A revised version is due out in the next few months.

It says health professionals should avoid accepting unknown friend requests and should be wary of anything they post because it was almost impossible to separate public life from professional life in social media.

The draft says disclosing personal information on social media to current or former patients may breach professional boundaries.

It also warns against people making negative comments or comparisons of health services, even outside their own profession.

A WA doctor has complained to AHPRA that the policy is stifling and ignores the huge benefits of social media.

Geraldton GP Edwin Kruys said it was also unclear how the agency would monitor Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.

"It doesn't seem to take into account the interests of consumers, because if I look at my patients the majority don't read our practice brochures any more but instead go online and share health information via Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus," Dr Kruys said.

"That's where our patients are and that's where we need to go, yet this policy isn't encouraging that."

Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said it was a waste of time and resources. "Our lives are already bound by our professional codes of conduct and on the whole doctors and other health professionals use social media appropriately, so I don't know how this policy would add anything," Dr Choong said.

'It doesn't seem to take into account the interests of consumers.'"Geraldton GP *Edwin Kruys *