Ethical Issues Related to Social Media
The use of social media in the healthcare setting can have significant impact on nursing practice. The impacts are common both in individual and organizational levels. The impacts of using social media in the clinical practice are both negative and positive (Jackson, Fraser, & Ash, 2014). The negative impact of using social media in the healthcare are attributed to various ethical issues. The advancement in information technology has increased the use of social media platforms in communication. Nurses are expected to develop professional skills and competencies in nursing informatics to improve their clinical practice. The use of social media has potential benefits to the users. unfortunately, irresponsible use of social media platforms is a fraught with hazards. There have been cases of patients stalking their nurses, providers blogging denigrating descriptions about patients under their care, and nurses disclosing sensitive or confidential and private information about their patients (Jackson et al., 2014). These negative impacts, for example, disclosing of private information is one of the leading factors that is linked with ethical issues when using social media in the clinical practice.
The use of social media platforms in the healthcare has raised various professional issues that include concerns related to confidentiality and privacy; professional boundaries; integrity, trustworthiness of health care professionals; line between personal and professional identity; and accountability (Denecke et al., 2015). Privacy and confidentiality are the main factors that cause ethical issues with the use of social media in the healthcare setting. Lack of privacy and confidentiality of patient’s sensitive information has been cited as the main cause of ethical issues when using various social media platforms in the healthcare setting. Privacy is controlled by the patient while confidentiality is controlled by the nurses and both should be promoting when using social media in the clinical practice (Denecke et al., 2015).
Maintaining privacy and confidentiality are important in maintaining nurse-patient relationship and addressing the related ethical issues in nursing practice. Maintaining trust of the patients is integral for ensuring provision of competent nursing care. Nurses should be committed to promote confidentiality of patient’s information when using social media to avoid the related ethical issues (Denecke et al., 2015). Lack of confidentiality may result to a situation where patients are disinclined to share intimate clinical information concerning themselves and their medical histories; thus, compromising with the delivery of quality, holistic, competent, and individualized care in nursing practice.
Sharing patient’s data through various social media platforms may result to ethical issues if informed consent is not considered. Sensitive patient’s information should be shared with the consent of individual patient to avoid ethical issues in the healthcare setting. Theses ethical issues are common in the healthcare setting, especially when dealing with older patients and those of different cultural backgrounds. Nurse’s personal information may also be accessed by the patient through social media platforms. This may compromise with nurse-patient relationship in the healthcare setting and contribute ethical issues. To avoid these ethical issues, nurses should use privacy settings to protect personal information and content. Nurses should only share patient’s data with their informed consent.
Denecke, K., Bamidis, P., Bond, C., Gabarron, E., Househ, M., Lau, A. Y. S., … & Hansen, M. (2015). Ethical issues of social media usage in healthcare. Yearbook of medical informatics, 10(1), 137. doi: 10.15265/IY-
Jackson, J., Fraser, R., & Ash, P. (2014). Social media and nurses: insights for promoting health for individual and professional use. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 19(3).2015-001. DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol19No03Man0
The use of social media platforms to communicate is a new normal. Social media provide an easier way of communicating by the use of internet connections. These platforms come along with advantages to the users. They are rich in information relevant to health care and are used mainly by the young generation to gather the required information on a particular topic (DeCamp, 2018). Social media users enjoy the entertainment from the posts on the different sites. Information that targets a wide range of population is best spread through the use of social media. The use of these forms of communication cannot be avoided in the modern society. However, the use of social media in the health care system comes along with potential ethical concerns.
Patient’s and the health care professional’s privacy and confidentiality is at a risk of being compromised (“Social media channels in health care research and rising ethical issues,” 2017). Confidentiality is a very vital aspect in the delivery of health care services. Patients suffering from diseases associated with high degree of stigmatization and embarrassment such as sexually transmitted infections may be afraid that information given to the health care professional may be spread to other users. This makes such patients to conceal some information that may be very important for diagnosis, treatment and prescription. As a result, chances of medical errors are increased affecting the patient’s outcome. Social media contains the profile of the patient and that of the health care provider. This exposure of personal details may compromise the professional relationship between the two. Romantic relationships between the patient and the care giver can emerge from the use of these platforms (“Social media channels in health care research and rising ethical issues,” 2017).
The use of social media is addictive (“Social media channels in health care research and rising ethical issues,” 2017). These platforms as earlier stated are a source of entertainment from the posts made by other users (DeCamp, 2018). Some of this post are so captivating in that it leads to social media addiction. Health care professionals are not an exemption and may too get addicted to it. In return, they spend most of their time browsing on this platform and may forget to perform their responsibilities (“Social media channels in health care research and rising ethical issues,” 2017). These leads to long queues as patients wait to be served. These may lead to the patients getting irritated and may never show up for follow-up health care appointments. As a result, the quality of services offered is compromised and poor patient’s outcome.
In conclusion, health care providers must be very careful on the use of social media to maintain professional relationship with the patients. Romantic relationships are ethically not allowed as this may compromise the quality of services offered (McKee, 2013). The use of emails and other electronic communication channels is recommended as a possible solution to this issue. However, this means of communication should not eliminate the physical interactions between the health care professional and the patient. Maintaining a good professional relationship requires the nurse needs to exercise confidentiality and privacy of the patients’ information as well as respecting each other (McKee, 2013). Nurses should control their use of social media to avoid addiction. They are supposed to come up with a time schedule that regulates time spent on these platforms especially for entertainment.
DeCamp, M. (2018). Ethical issues when using social media for health outside professional relationships. Social Media in Medicine, 15-23. doi:10.4324/9781315619941-3
McKee, R. (2013). Ethical issues in using social media for health and health care research. Health Policy, 110(2-3), 298-301. doi:10.1016/j.healthpol.2013.02.006
Social media channels in health care research and rising ethical issues. (2017). AMA Journal of Ethics, 19(11), 1061-1069. doi:10.1001/journalofethics.2017.19.11.peer1-1711
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