Viewpoint: Physicians' frustrated social media posts may lower patient confidence

Though venting about colleagues, stress levels and lack of sleep on social media can serve to humanize physicians, that humanization can also undermine patients' "noble" perception of the medical profession, according to medical ethicist Daniel Sokol, PhD.

In a new article for STAT, Dr. Sokol discussed the recent trend of physicians openly sharing online their experiences crying at work, losing their temper with coworkers and even making clinical errors. Tweets and Facebook posts like this contribute to a drop in patient confidence in the entire profession.

"A loss of confidence in doctors brings a greater inclination for patients to challenge, complain, and sue," he wrote. "Moreover, it risks the loss of the placebo effect borne from seeing doctors, whose very presence can be reassuring."

Therefore, Dr. Sokol concluded, "Those tempted to share insights into the working life of doctors on social media must ask themselves whether the benefits of this candor outweigh the possible harms to their own reputation and to the image of the medical profession as a whole. This restraint forms part of medical professionalism."

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