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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Facebook Medicine is Bad Medicine

Most of you who read the blog know I am a physician, specifically an ER physician. It seems lately on Facebook I get more and more requests for medical opinions and advice. Lately I have been asked to interpret someone's Xray results, adjust someone else's blood pressure medicine and diagnose a rash on a child. 

Of course I have never seen any of these people and never had a professional relationship with any of them. I know nothing of their previous history and yet I am asked to advise them on Facebook of all places. I routinely decline to advise these people. 

My malpractice insurance premium costs between $20,000 and $25,000 per year. The ER company I contract with actually pays my premium but in the end you can bet I end up paying for at least most of it. My policy covers me for legal actions that may occur against me during my duties as an ER physician. I am not covered for any occurrences outside the ER. This would include Facebook consults. 

A layperson can give advice to another without fear of legal involvement. However, if I give medical advice to another, from that point I have developed a doctor-patient relationship and I am medically and legally responsible for any advice I may give. If something goes wrong or I give bad advice perhaps because I did not have all the facts, I can be sued. These types of suits happen all the time. Many of the suits are nothing but nonsense. Nevertheless it takes time and money to defend even the most trivial of these. Sadly, settling a suit is sometimes more economical than continuing to fight it, even if the defendant has done nothing wrong. We so badly need a LOSER PAYS system in the United States. 

So when I decline to answer your Facebook medical questions, I hope you'll understand. And besides that, whatever happened to calling your friendly family doctor (who knows your case and your history) for all your medical needs?


  1. Well said sweetie. That was my thought yesterday when I saw a request from someone for medical advice. I was also amazed at the comments/advice generated by other FaceBook members.

    '... OMG, what can it be, I'm so worried, what should I do, what do you think it is....'

    It is becoming a strange world when people consult and spend valuable time on FaceBook with a medical problem, especially for a child, when as you say they should be consulting their doctor, and I do mean doctor.

    Right Truth

  2. Yes, my sweet. It is interesting to watch as the panic train starts slowly chugging away and then reaches full speed screaming along on a downhill grade. I saw a similar panic parade a while back over someone who had a wasp sting.

    Funny nobody ever thought of calling and making an appointment with the friendly family doctor. What a foreign idea that would be.

  3. Well, people like to consult and spend valuable time on FaceBook with a medical problem just to save on time and money. This phenomenon is rampant on South-East Asia where there are more people in poverty than in the U.S.