Billions of people use social media, including many patients, families, and providers. As social media has evolved, so have the challenges users face when choosing to share or view content. These challenges are even more complex when providers care for patients and families who post publicly about their experience in the medical system, especially when they have many followers. In this Ethics Rounds, we present a case of a resident physician caring for a medically complex child whose parent has hundreds of thousands of followers on her social media accounts where she posts details of her child’s medical experience. The resident is considering viewing the parent’s posts. An ethicist, a family advocate, and a pediatric resident provide commentaries. The first discusses issues of privacy, influencer culture, and decision-making. The second addresses communication and the difficulties families face as they interact with the medical system. The third discusses outdated policies and risks to the therapeutic relationship. The commentators generally agree that it is preferable for providers to discuss their concerns with patients or parents/ guardians directly rather than view their social media surreptitiously. Although there may be some benefits to viewing someone’s posts, such as gaining a better understanding of their life at home, it would be best for the provider to view them with the patient/parent to allow them to provide context.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health