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Practising in the Facebook world

MPS Medical Director Dr Rob Hendry warns of the challenges facing the healthcare profession in keeping pace with the information age

Medicine has always been quick to adopt and adapt new technologies and many advances in care have been due to utilising advances made in other branches of science.

As we enter the new information age, the phenomenon of social networking is changing the way doctors interact with their patients and wider society. Traditional boundaries between private and professional life are becoming blurred and the potential for members to inadvertently fall into medicolegal traps is increasing.

Professional bodies around the world have recognised both the potential for the good that social networking technologies offer and also the risks for the unwary.

Tweeting to one’s friends after a bad day at work or posting details of what you got up to at a party at the weekend on Facebook can often be seen by patients, colleagues and managers. When comments are posted on the blogosphere all control is lost and they are less private than remarks made on the back of a postcard.

The laws of defamation apply to comments that may have been originally designed to amuse your friends or written in the heat of the moment, but which end up being widely circulated just as much as more traditional channels of communication.

In the UK, the General Medical Council has recently published guidance on social media, which states that where doctors identify themselves as doctors in publicly accessible social media, they should also identify themselves by name because any written material by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust. This places an onus on doctors to be thoughtful in what they write.

The full impact of new social media technologies will inevitably develop over the coming years. It is important that the way in which the public can become engaged and informed about health issues is not inhibited. However, the regulation of the profession’s use of new media opportunities may struggle to keep up with the pace of technological change and diverging social expectations of the profession.

MPS has always believed that our approach to indemnity allows us to provide the most flexible and adaptive support to our members, especially during times of rapid change in the world of medicine. 

Professional bodies around the world have recognised both the potential for the good that social networking technologies offer and also the risks for the unwary

Dates for your diary

A number of healthcare events are taking place across the region during the next few months

23-28 June 
Bermuda Shorts: Practical Tips for Covering On-Call 
Southampton, Bermuda 
www.cme.ucsf.edu 

4-6 July 
Emergencies in Primary Care 
Atlantis Resort, Bahamas 
www.mceconferences.com 

31 July-3 August 
18th Annual Summer Conference on Primary Care 
Paradise Island, Bahamas 
http://symposiamedicus.org 

5-9 August 
Clinical Imaging Symposium in Bermuda 
Southampton, Bermuda 
https://tools.med.nyu.edu 

8-10 August 
Primary Care Update – A Review and Update of Common Clinical Problems 
Southampton, Bermuda 
www.mceconferences.com 

16-18 August 
Healthy Eating, Healthy Living – Caring for Your Patients and Your Family 
Southampton, Bermuda 
www.mceconferences.com 

6-14 September 
Cuba: People to People 
Havana, Cuba 
www.pes-travel.com

US Virgin Islands: Affordable Care Act – Implementation gathers pace

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the US Virgin Islands has received extra support from representatives of the US health department, as discussions over health insurance continue. USVI Governor John de Jongh explored the options for expanding the existing Medicaid program in accordance with the new Act.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the US Virgin Islands has received extra support from representatives of the US health department

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was among those he consulted. Mr de Jongh said: “The opportunity to co-ordinate our efforts and discuss the options of a Medicaid exchange and a health insurance exchange with Secretary Sebelius and other federal policymakers proved tremendously beneficial as we consider our next steps in implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

“I greatly appreciate the commitment that Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials have shown in working with the territory on these critically important matters.”

Barbados: Neonatal mortality rates debated at workshop

Ongoing concerns over neonatal deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean were the focus of a three-day workshop in Barbados in March.

The workshop, organised by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), was aimed at creating a regional strategy following an estimate of neonatal deaths – defined as death within the first 28 days of life – at 15 per 1,000 live births in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The survival of mothers and their newborn babies are inextricably linked [..] intervention methods, solutions and approaches to care and treatment must be integrated

Barbados Health Minister John Boyce said: “Newborns are perhaps the most vulnerable patient population in the world. Not only are they biologically immature and, therefore, uniquely susceptible to a range of life-threatening illnesses, they are also wholly dependent on others to advocate for their health and welfare.

“The survival of mothers and their newborn babies are inextricably linked and thus it can be argued that intervention methods, solutions and approaches to care and treatment must be integrated in order to improve newborn and child healthcare.”

Mr Boyce added that the main focus should be on promoting effective policies and programmes; evidence-based interventions for newborn care in health services and communities within a health systems approach; strengthening surveillance systems; and targeting the poor and marginalised populations.

He revealed the factors that contributed to high neonatal mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean included low visibility of newborn deaths and newborn health in national priority settings; inequalities in access to skilled birth attendants and primary healthcare; and continuing poor maternal health.

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