Privacy Online?

I was at lunch today with a few coworkers and I was telling them about this blog. After showing appropriate interest, their first questions and concerns were related to privacy. Was I using my real name? What information about me would be out there? These are especially interesting questions for psychiatrists, who consider all aspects of care as part of the treatment. For example, some patients now email their doctors for medication refills. I have actually done this with my primary care doctor, and find it quite convenient. I have also had a couple of patients email me letters they want me to read over between sessions. That’s the extent of it though, and I’m not sure how comfortable I would be if regular psychiatric care were extended to the world wide web. At the very least, I like to talk to patients on the phone, even for something as simple as a refill. Reading an email on the internet gives me no sense of what the patient sounds like, how he or she is doing, and whether there is something more beyond the prescription that needs to be addressed. That’s my personal opinion, though, and I would be curious to know how other psychiatrists and doctors feel about this.

Back to my personal safety and privacy, though–am I worried? I suppose I do feel I have to be cautious, but no more so than when I interact and put my information out there on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn, Groupon. And I’m probably forgetting some sites that I have profiles on. Definitely something to think about.

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