Best practices for healthcare professionals sharing information online

*Originally posted on our blog on October 2, 2014

There has been a lot of discussion recently about healthcare professionals sharing information about patients online. This is an issue that we think about every day at Figure 1, so we have developed this short list of best practices for healthcare professionals.

1. Be informed

Know your institution’s policies about sharing information online and understand how to abide by them. If your institution limits uploading of photographs, you can still view images and discuss them on Figure 1 or other communities. If you are unsure about the rules at your institution, start a conversation about them with the right people.

2. Be respectful

Above all else, you should always apply the same ethical principles you use in your practice to what you post online. Avoid saying anything about a patient online that you would not say in front of them.

If you are posting an image to Figure 1, you may need written consent from the patient (depending on your jurisdiction and workplace). Figure 1 provides a country-specific consent form right in the app. Alternately, there are written consent forms available at most institutions. Know the consent rules that apply to you and follow them with respect toward your patients.

3. Be responsible

Before sharing online, protect your patients’ privacy by removing their identifying information. On Figure 1, we ask you to remove 18 identifiers (which have been drawn from HIPAA) and provide you with the tools to do so. Use these tools to keep your patients’ identities safe.

4. Be relevant

Focus on the medical aspects of each case in order to educate other healthcare professionals. Be specific and outline what others can learn.

When done with care, sharing medical information online can help both healthcare professionals and patients. Consider these best practices whenever you are unsure or need clarification about whether to post something.