Dr. Cranquis answered a question today about medical anonymity in the digital world and I think it is worth revisiting. With information so easily accessible nowadays, it would be foolish to take the situation lightly. There is constantly a risk I run of stepping on somebody’s toes and sullying whatever credentials I have. These are marks against me that might carry on throughout my studies and beyond.
In the digital age, doctors like Dr. Cranquis and other medical students I know who have taken to the internet are very much so breaking new ground into uncharted territory. Though Dr. Parkinson says in his recent TEDx talk that no negative consequences have come to bear on anyone, I am not going to take risks that might put me out in the open.
When I started this blog in late July of 2010, I came into it not realizing how sensitive and how difficult it might be to blog about medicine. There are many areas that simply are too sensitive to discuss in any detail. This sensitivity, compounded by the fact that my name, face, and area of study are readily identifiable in the public domain, means anything I write could risk breaching patient confidentiality and be a personal liability. Every day, I tread carefully.
Every time I write, I must always ask myself: how much detail is too much? what can I write about without putting myself, the patients I see, and the medical profession at risk? Sometimes, it is easy to de-identify patients or change the details of the story to preserve the essence of the event; other times, it is not so easy, and that has meant I have avoided writing about many amazing moments in my journey. I am sure many more will follow in the long road ahead. That is the price I pay for not being anonymous.
There was once a social contract between the public and doctors that we would govern ourselves, safeguard our own profession, and the patients that fall under our care; it exists to this day. Online, the onus is on ourselves to protect that principle.
Leave a comment below about your thoughts on the topic.