Thursday, November 17, 2011

Doctor-Patient Relationship: How Far Am I Willing To Go?

Bonedoc, my colleague in more ways than one (fellow orthopod, fellow blogger, fellow...nature lover :D) posted a link to an interesting read in our Facebook group page hours ago. Titled "Can Patients Be Facebook Friends With Doctors?", the article is something that I could have probably written a few months earlier. It is not a secret to most of you who have come across some of my posts that I am not much of a Facebook fan mainly because of security and privacy concerns, though I am still holding on to my present account for purposes of keeping in touch with family and friends.

Of course, doctor-patient relationship is but one of the many relationships that I have to protect, not just in Facebook world. I may still be (relatively) young in the specialty practice, but already I am quite aware that most patients appreciate it so much when their attending physicians take time out to know them a bit more. Things like remembering the patient's name and being able to associate the name to the right face are just but the first steps in helping the patient speak more openly, not just about his illness, but also his concerns about its impact on his personal and social life. However, and this is a personal opinion, a line has to be drawn somewhere, somehow. And "friending" in Facebook is just one of the places where this line has to made distinct. 

Endocrine-witch did make me think about how much I would want to get involved in a doctor-patient relationship, and I came up with this list.

1. I would not be so inclined to accept Facebook friend requests from patients. Probably the only exception to this is when my account is created for the purpose of disseminating general information relevant to the medical field; however, I have no such account.

2. For security reasons, I do not also wish to give my mobile number to patients. In the past, I had been a victim of numerous stalkers. Sadly, some stalkers actually got my number from my co-workers (one incident involved a stalker asking for my number from a nurse(!)). While I have many times contemplated to get another number solely dedicated to patient calls, at the moment the hospital landline seems to suffice.

3. Will I accept invitations to attend social affairs from patients? (i.e., birthday party, wedding etc) Filipinos are generally the type to involve everyone in their social affairs; I say generally, and yes I think is a cultural thing. This is quite an iffy situation that has to be answered out on a case-to-case basis.

4. What if I fall in love with my patient? I have never been in this situation, have never envisioned myself to be in this situation, and I do not, by all means, intend to be in this situation. As far as I am concerned, carrying on a love affair with a patient is so out of the question. The only acceptable time for me to be in a romantic relationship with a patient is when that person first became my partner before becoming my patient - certainly not the other way around. 

There are likely more situations where the extent of the doctor-patient relationship will be tested. I am not one to impose my personal beliefs, and I welcome opinions and constructive criticisms. Let me know what you think. :) 

By the way, the absolutely cute cartoon is courtesy of this entertaining blog A Cartoon Guide To Becoming A Doctor. Do check it out.


endocrine-witch said...

I cannot agree with you more about not giving your mobile number. I ask patients to text or call my secretary, who can then pass on any messages or queries to me. I will have a follow-up post soon about FB and doctors.

The Last Song Syndrome said...

hello endocrine-witch, can't wait to read your follow-up post.