Checks in the post

The perils of closed social media forums. Dr Sally Old discusses the pitfalls of posting on private social media groups.

Social media groups and forums can often be a useful platform to discuss the pressures of being a doctor; for example, sharing best practice, voicing frustrations or asking questions to colleagues. 

There are numerous forums which are ‘closed’, meaning that they allow discussion in a discreet ‘members only’ area. However, are such forums a safe place when there is the potential for comments posted on such groups to be leaked onto the wider internet? 

In Doctors’ use of social media (2013), the GMC outlines the principles that doctors must adhere to when posting online. In it, the GMC states: 

‘Although individual pieces of information may not breach confidentiality on their own, the sum of published information online could be enough to identify a patient or someone close to them. You must not use publicly accessible social media to discuss individual patients or their care with those patients or anyone else.’ 

Private social media groups may seem secure, but it is important to remember that these forums can have hundreds of thousands of members. 

Often, this means that information is accessible to individuals outside the profession. To illustrate, there have been cases when people have used fake credentials to join private groups. 

Another important factor to consider is the potential for someone within the group to take a screenshot of your post and publish it in another forum.