Trust between patients and medical personnel is essential to achieving the best healthcare possible, and in reducing the need for medical malpractice and other lawsuits. And trust can be fragile.

Social media has become a rich incubator for bad decisions by medical personnel. Either in “viral” scandals or in ways neither patient nor doctor even notices, social media sometimes alienate patients from medical professionals.

Viral posts can advertise poor decision-making skills

Busy and sometimes overconfident medical professionals do not always understand that social media posts can explode like an oxygen tank when you least expect it.

A personality on the relatively new platform TikTok is apparently a nurse. According to CNN, she recently used the platform to mock patients who fake symptoms of diseases they do not have, appearing to suggest it was a routine part of her patient interactions.

The responses were many, and mostly negative. Many told often heartbreaking stories about the pain and damage they suffered at the hands of medical professionals who refused to understand or listen to them with an empathetic and evidence-driven attitude. She deleted the post.

Spare time and conflicts of interest lower patient respect

An article in Medscape (a WebMD company) lists a variety of ways otherwise normal use of social media can lower damage the aura of humanity and expertise that many see as an essential tool of medical professionals.

While keeping a social media account somewhat active shows an attentiveness, posting too much can be a “bad look” for doctors or practices. Many patients would rather their doctor spend their free time caring for the needy or studying the latest medical research.

To many patients, seeming to advertise products on behalf of pharmaceutical companies suggests that their doctor has conflicts of interest that could shade their judgment.

Even posts of potential value to patients or other healthcare professionals can go wrong. Doctors have sometimes posted photos that could identify their patients and their conditions. The patient’s face, jewelry or tattoos can be identification enough.

Although not every doctor might stop to think about it, a patient who recognizes their own wound, rash or x-ray may find it extremely distressing to see a snapshot of it posted on Twitter.