The College of Optometrists

Privacy and confidentiality

C146
Online information can be easily accessed by others and so you should be aware of issues of privacy and confidentiality, and regularly review privacy settings in your profiles. This is important because:
  1. social media sites cannot guarantee confidentiality, irrespective of your privacy settings
  2. your patients, colleagues and other professional contacts may be able to access your personal information
  3. information about your location may be embedded within photographs and other content, available for others to see
  4. if you post significant amounts of your personal information online, patients may have access to this and this may impact upon your professional relationship with them
  5. once information is published online, it cannot be removed completely, as other users can distribute it more widely or comment on it.
C147
You must not share patient identifiable information through social media, without the patient’s explicit consent, even if it is on a site for practitioners and is not accessible to the public. When you ask for the patient’s consent you must tell the patient exactly how you intend to share the information, what it will be used for, and where it will be available. You should keep a record of these discussions and ask the patient to sign, indicating their consent.
C148
You can share anonymised patient information on sites that are for practitioners only. However, you should remember that, even if you anonymise patient information, the amount of additional information that is available online may mean that patients can be identified. This is a breach of patient confidentiality.
C149
You must not discuss individual patients or their care with anyone, including the patients themselves, on publicly accessible social media.

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