A loss of control in modern medicine

I would not go as far as calling myself a digital native but still i do enjoy using technical gadgets and apps, surfing the web and participating in social media. I am on facebook and twitter, use other web2.0 services and also like to keep an eye open for the next big thing ;-)

As a doctor I'm really interested (1) in the change that new technologies will bring (2) or already have brought to my life and everyday job. Nowadays we use smartphones with medical apps (3), present ourselfes in blogs and communicate with collegues and sometimes patients over the net.

All this is quite new and especially if you are not one of this so-called "digital natives" it can also be a bit intimidating and confusing. What are the rules to play by in this new online world (4)? It's a little bit learning by doing and also looking at those who are already there to find out which way one can comfortably go.

My perception of the actual discussion on medicine and social media is that we're talking about only how to handle this new world of social media (5), for example what to do when a patient contacts you through their facebook-account or via twitter, to be careful when providing information about your work or even to completely abandon any patient-related talk on the internet. Of course also the question of how private one should be about themself (6) when posting to the web is talked about.

OK, been there, done that. This stuff is somehow still self controlled. It's up to me what I post to the internet. We all have to figure out how far we want to go, maybe with try and error, but in the end it's up to us.

I am interested in and have questions about the things that lie beyond our control.

It's a fact that by using modern technology one produces loads of data of which you have absolutely no control about, what's happening to it, who's saving and using it. Smartphones and apps track you down in a way like never before.

Let's take location-tracking as an example. Every mobile phone gets the provider data about your location. It depends how strict you want to set the boundaries of private medical information, but yet alone the tracked location of a doctor could be seen as something that should not be easily known and computer-processed by third parties for privacy reasons on behalf of the patients when their doctor visits them at their home.

Or take the recent incidents with Apps uploading data from a mobile phone without asking for permission (Instagram, Path…). I have no control over some of the data that is produced and revealed to third parties just by owning and using my phone. But i can't go without a mobile phone anymore nowadays…

This loss of control has to be discussed in the medical environment. In the end I think that we all as a society will have to get used to the challanging fact, that with modern technology we give up on certain aspects of our privacy inevitably.



1) Embrace the explosion of the new technologies

2) Physicians, Risk and Opportunity in the Digital Age  (re2: How should physicians behave on social media? )

3) Small opportunities to use mobile technology in medicine

4) How to maintain physician professionalism in social media

5) How do We Define Professional Physician Behavior in Social Media?

6) Transparency defines social media success for doctors


The author of this blogpost, Dr.med. André Soral works as a general practitioner in Austria.

Über San

Mein Name ist André Soral. Ich bedanke mich bei ErbAlex für die Bereitstellung der technischen Vorraussetzungen, welche mir ermöglichen hier zu bloggen. Die Themen orientieren sich an meinem beruflichen und privaten Umfeld: Medizin, Kommunikation, Internet, Photographie, Imkerei...

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