A Tweeting Hospital and Kidney Patient

The Case of the tweeting Kidney Patient

has casued a small whirlpool of a debate happening. The summary of the case is:

a kidney patient was tweeting about their kidney transplant on twitter

the hospital monitored the tweets, and passed one comment onto a consultant when it was clear the patient hadn’t understood something about the treatment (the consultant had never used twitter before)

The consultant then brought the subject up with the patient at the next face to face meeting
Both the consultant and patient were embarrassed but the patient was also grateful to have access to a consultant directly and help.

Here is the debate: is this Ethical?  Interference? A good outcome? Invasion of privacy? ?What were the consultant/hospital thinking? ?Opportunity for online-education? Is ‘surveillence med’ socially unacceptable?

The comments are worth a read: for example Anne Marie Cunningham, a GP and medical educator, is questioning whether this response was an invasion of patient privacy (I hope Anne Marie does one of her thoughtful blog posts on the case), @snippetphysther, a physical therapist, thinks by using twitter the patient chose to make their experience to be public.

My take, as a non-clinician, is also that tweets are in the public domain and with proper use, good education for all can come of a dialogue online, as long as personal details are not included.  The Mayoclinic’s use of social media may be one way of seeing this in action. Nevertheless , we have had this debate before (in the case of the sexual health nurse using social media to contact patients) and I’m not sure how I would I feel if a hospital/clinic I had just attended were monitoring my twitter stream.  Would I change what I was sharing online I wonder?

IAmReedSmith posted the following chart: Who from the hospital should tweet

hospital tweeting who should do it

These are small numbers but it shows that, in this particular population and not necessarily representative, 55% of patients and family members would like nurses and caregivers to tweet. On the flip side, does a nurse wish to be inundated with questions from patients? Some do as in the case of Zena the Sexual Health Nurse.

For more on this subject see The case of the Twittering Kidney Patient by Dan O’Connor