How patient privacy laws impedes electronic communication with doctors

I recently spoke at Grand Rounds in my local hospital, talking about how doctors and other medical professionals can better use social media to interact with patients.

Already, the majority of patients access the web for health information, and that number is only going to increase – especially as their use of social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, grows.  Despite that, however, adoption of these digital mediums of communication remains slow.

Bryan Vartabedian points to an example in Mexico, where fliers are handed out to patients, instructing them on how to contact their doctor via instant message.  Good luck finding anything similar Stateside.

Finding a way for doctors to better communicate with their patients electronically will dramatically improve their relationship. But in the United States, stringent privacy laws threatens that advance.

As Dr. Vartabedian writes, “Risk of privacy violation and difficulty in documentation stifle this level of doctor-patient connectivity. The very laws created to protect patients may ultimately thwart the timely adoption of new communication channels.”

He suspects that the demand that patients have to electronically talk to their doctors will force a change in privacy laws. We can only hope.