Advertising in medicine is subject to strict guidelines, but social media and rapid developments in technology can lead to unintended breaches. Dr Katie Grant, medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection, looks at two recent cases
Case 1: A video leaks online
Dr V, a family physician, created an educational video for use within her own clinic. In the video, she provided advice on common respiratory illnesses, reassuring the patients in her clinic that they had made the right choice as she was a good doctor.
Without Dr V’s knowledge, the video was uploaded to the internet and became publically accessible. A complaint was made by a member of the public to the MCHK.
Dr V received a Notice of Meeting of the MCHK’s preliminary investigation committee (PIC). Concerned were raised that the video may have constituted a breach of the MCHK guidelines on dissemination of service information to the public, as outlined in sections 5.2 and 6 of the Code of Professional Conduct.
Medical Protection assisted Dr V in drafting a detailed submission to be put before the PIC. We also instructed a locally-based legal team to meet with Dr V to discuss her case. A Medical Protection medicolegal adviser also worked alongside the legal team and Dr V, assisting with the drafting of a detailed written submission to the MCHK.
The submission described how Dr V had no knowledge of the video being uploaded to the internet and that she had ensured the video was removed immediately from the website. It also descibed Dr V’s understanding and appreciation of the relevant sections of the Code, and apologies for any inadvertent breach of these.
The PIC considered whether this matter should proceed further and provided detailed allegations against Dr V. Medical Protection continued to support Dr V throughout the process and further submissions were provided. Following their second meeting – around ten months later – the PIC decided the matter should be concluded with a Letter of Advice to Dr V.
Dr V was relieved that the matter did not progress to a full disciplinary inquiry and was grateful for the support of Medical Protection throughout the process. Having the support of both medical and legal expertise ensured that her case was managed with empathy and efficiency.
Case 2: An automated problem on social media
GP Dr J was the subject of an anonymous complaint to the MCHK, who claimed she had falsely advertised herself as a specialist on a social media site, using a specialist title not recognised by the Medical Council, contrary to Code of Professional Conduct section 7.
Dr J had not registered for an account on this site, and was not aware of the page prior to the complaint.
Medical Protection assisted Dr J with her submissions at the MCHK’s preliminary investigation stage. The Medical Protection team was able to uncover that the social media site had automatically created a page for Dr J’s clinic, which misrepresented her specialty; it had only been created because of interest from members of a group within the site, and was labelled an ‘unofficial’ page for the clinic.
The Medical Protection medicolegal team assisted Dr J with drafting her submissions. When presented to the PIC, the matter was closed and did not progress to a full hearing.
Dr J expressed gratitude for the advice and support provided and resolved to be more aware of her online presence in future.
- Be vigilant about your social media presence, even if you do not use certain sites. Ensure any information accessible online is accurate and complies with the Code of Professional Conduct.
- Check the websites and other materials produced by any clinics and organisations you work for to ensure that the information they provide – including your specialist title and quotable qualifications – are accurate and comply with the relevant MCHK guidelines.
- Contact Medical Protection if you have any queries.
While these cases are based on real scenarios, Medical Protection has altered some facts to preserve confidentiality.