Neurologists cautious about patient e-contact: survey


Neurologists are a conservative group when it comes to patients contacting them by personal cell phone/email, and a majority think a social media relationship with a patient is inappropriate, according to the results of two online surveys of NeuroSens subscribers conducted by Dr. Jiwon Oh and colleagues at the University of Toronto. The results were presented at ACTRIMS Forum 2017 in Orlando, Florida in February 2017.

Part 1 of the survey (n=39) was posted on NeuroSens in May 2016 and examined social media use (Jones et al. ACTRIMS 2017; abstract). A total of 54% of respondents regularly used at least one social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

A total of 38% reported that they regularly accessed social media sites both at home and in the workplace. When asked about restricting social media access at work, 24% favoured no restrictions, 22% approved of use in one’s personal office, and 27% thought it should be accessed only during breaks. A majority thought it was inappropriate to have a social-media relationship with a patient (87%), or to post information about patients (92%) or colleagues (87%) on a social media site. Most respondents (55%) were unsure if their institution had a policy regarding social media use.

Part 2 of the survey (n=64) was posted on NeuroSens in July 2016 and examined healthcare provider-patient electronic communications (personal cell phone, email) (Jones et al. ACTRIMS 2017; abstract). Most clinicians stated that patients should never contact them on their personal cell phone (67%); 11% thought it appropriate only in emergencies, 18% in some circumstances, and 3% in most circumstances. Contact via personal email was viewed more favourably: 21% thought it appropriate in most circumstances, 48% in some circumstances, 5% only in emergencies, and 27% under no circumstances.

Most clinicians had concerns (very significant/significant) about the impact of electronic communications on physician workload (70%), patient confidentiality (59%), physician-patient boundaries (54%) and physician liability (53%).

The authors concluded that healthcare institutions need to establish policies about social media use, and about electronic communications between physicians/nurses and patients.

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