What Happens When a Facebook “Person You May Know” Is Your Patient?

September 30, 2016 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


​Facebook was seemingly recommending strangers to each other at random, as potential "friends," until some noticed a troubling connection, according to an August 29, 2016, article in Fusion. The one thing all the suggested "friends" had in common? The same psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, who spoke to the publication on condition of anonymity, said she was an infrequent user of the social media network and stated she was surprised when Facebook began recommending that she "friend" her patients. Soon after, one of the psychiatrist's patients, who was 30 years old—an outlier in terms of age among the psychiatrist's patients, as she typically treated older patients—told her that Facebook had begun suggesting many older people to him as friends, including a 70-year-old man whom he did not know. The patient had deduced that the suggested "friends" were probably patients of the psychiatrist. The patient was correct, although the psychiatrist could not confirm this for him because to do so would violate the other patients' privacy.

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