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NPA warns pharmacists not to engage with patients via social media

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has recommended that pharmacists do not engage with patients via Facebook and other social media, following warnings to doctors by the British Medical Association.

The BMA told both doctors and medical students not engage with patients via social networking websites such as Facebook due to confidentiality reasons.

An NPA spokesperson said: "The pharmacy team has a duty to protect patient confidentiality, so interacting with the public on a personal level on Facebook or other social media platforms can be risky."

They added: "NPA members who want to use social media to promote their businesses can use our online best practice guides."

The BMA fears that interaction between doctors and their patients on sites such as Facebook could lead to the transgression of inappropriate boundaries.

In addition to the advice given in the BMA's guide, medical professionals have been told to implement strict privacy settings.

The guide, Using social media: practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students, explains that doctor-patient relationships should be made extremely clear in order to avoid any problems.

The advice also states that:

  • The ethical and legal duty to protect patient confidentiality applies equally on the internet as to other media.
  • It is inappropriate to post informal, personal or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues on public internet forums.
  • Doctors and medical students who post online have an ethical obligation to declare any conflicts of interest.
  • Defamation law can apply to any comments posted on the web made in either a personal or professional capacity.
  • The BMA warned that there would be consequences for those who failed to follow the guidlines. It said that, in the past, some staff had been investigated after communicating with patients and some had even lost of their jobs as a result.

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