Health 2.0 Risks to Providers

Although Health 2.0 resources offer tremendous opportunities to patients and physicians, they also provide some great risks for healthcare providers.

Although the blogs, wikis, social networking sites, chat rooms, message boards, and other Health 2.0 resources offer tremendous opportunities to patients and physicians, they also provide some great risks for healthcare providers, according to Kevin Clauson, associate professor of pharmacy practice and specialist in drug information, Nova Southeastern University, who presented at the first Medicine 2.0 Congress in Toronto, Canada, earlier this month. One of the biggest threats comes with the use of EHRs and PHRs that allow patients to view their own medical information; if popularly used derogatory slang like CLL (chronic low-life) and LOBNH (lights on by nobody home)—which Clauson has seen in medical charts—ends up being read by patients, the aftermath could be devastating to the patient-provider relationship and even lead to legal issues for the organization that employs that provider. Even when intentions are well-meaning, messages can often be misinterpreted when in digital form, be it in an EHR, e-mail, or blog posting, as tone is hard to portray in text. “Poor communication is exacerbated by writing because most people don’t write very well,” Clauson added.

The risks of Health 2.0 were well publicized in July, when the results of a study were published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, which found that Facebook pages of University of Florida (UF) medical students included information about groups they belonged to—“Physicians Looking for Trophy Wives in Training,” “I should have gone to a blacker college,” and “PIMP: Party of Important Male Physicians”—and pictures of them grabbing classmates’ breasts, visibly drunk, and wearing lab coats that read “Kevorkian Medical Clinic.” The behavior led Lindsay Acheson Thompson, assistant professor of general pediatrics, at UF Medical School, to say “I'm not sure I would want to have a permanent, public record of everything I did 10 years ago, but many of our students are creating just such a record, and they need to understand the problems this may cause… Doctors are held to a higher standard. There are stated codes of behavior that are pretty straightforward.”

It all comes down to common sense and awareness of what can end up in patient’s hands and what can be misunderstood. “It is possible to some extent to ameliorate these risks with good judgment and risk management,” said Clauson.