Social Networking

Due to a number of privacy issues regarding seriously injured military patients at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) appearing on social networking sites, it was deemed necessary to publish a cautionary note.

Social Networking sites, like FacebookTM, can be incredibly useful tools; helping people to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues whilst deployed overseas. Facebook alone boasts some 120 million members, however these sites are not without risk and you should be careful about how you use them.

Recently there was a case where detailed medical information about a patient had been posted on a 'former comrades' Facebook Group site only a couple of hours after the family had been informed.

The motivation may well have been well intended, and how the originator got the information may well have been legitimate, but to then publish this information with little or no regard for operational security and more importantly for confidentiality and the feelings of the family is inconsiderate and unprofessional.

The most important thing to make certain when using a social networking site is that your PRIVACY SETTINGS are correct. Make sure that only those people who you want to see your posts can read them. Open groups are scanned by the media for stories and some patients and families have been contacted by newspapers and other media outlets because of things that have been posted on social networking sites. This can be quite distressing particularly in the context of those wounded and injured who find themselves admitted to hospital.

If you were visiting Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) you could meet many patients and their relatives whilst you are here. Please make sure that you respect their privacy. It is for that reason that there are many areas of the hospital where photographs are not permitted. Details of patients' injuries or treatment should not be put onto any website or discussed with the media without the consent of the patient themselves.

Those family members wanting to stay in touch with military patients in Birmingham can use the e-blueyTM system to send free e-blueys (www.bfpo.mod.uk). They will need to use QEHB postcode (B15 2WB) for all the hospitals in Birmingham. Please ask friends and families who want to send good wishes to use this system.

Major John Harker MBE, OC Patient Support Services, RCDM Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB)

- Independent - Gadget & Tech article 10 Feb 08.

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