Sunday, October 4, 2009

Physician privacy and online social networking websites

Physicians need their privacy. Some patients would be calling their physicians all the time if they had the mobile phone number. That's why so many physicians use answering services and they block caller ID when they're calling out to their patients.

How can physicians leverage social networking websites and maintain privacy? What's the right balance for physicians who are trying to transition into the world of non-clinical medicine?

I'm not a fair example. My first name (Joseph or Joe) is one of the most common names out there. My last name (Kim) is the most common Korean surname (and also happens to be a very common first name among women). So, when you search for a Joseph Kim or Joe Kim on LinkedIn, Facebook, or any other social networking site, you're likely to find many pages of results.

If you have a fairly common name, you may find that it's easy to network on these sites if you're using your name but you're not identifying yourself as a physician.

If you have a unique name, then you may choose to create an alias so that you can still use sites like LinkedIn and Facebook while maintaining anonymity (be creative and don't impersonate anyone). Of course, you wouldn't want to be anonymous to your friends, so you'd have to reach out to them and let them know what you're doing. This could get confusing for people. So, are there any other options?

Fortunately, many social networking sites provide many privacy options. Your name may not appear in any searches (so your patients won't find you). Your information may not be visible to anyone outside of your personal network. By leveraging these privacy options, you may be "invisible" to everyone who might be looking for you. However, it will give you a way to reach out to them and rebuild old relationships.

My recommendation is to create a profile and set all your privacy options to the "Max" level. Try it out, and then you may wish to ease up on the privacy settings after you leave the world of clinical medicine.

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