Social Networking Sites Fail to Protect PHI of Diabetes Patients

The Journal of American Medical Informatics Association recently published a study on the quality and privacy of information provided by various social networking sites for diabetes patients.  Researchers found that there was a wide variation in the information content as well as the measures taken to protect patient privacy.

As such, only half of these sites presented material that was consistent with diabetes science and medical practice. Even fewer sites offer protection of patient health information (PHI) as most users are not given an option to restrict their profile information.

Although complete privacy is hard to achieve on a social media site by default, the developers of these platforms must be careful not to leak any PHI. At a minimum, social networking sites should include a disclaimer that would encourage the patients to discuss their conditions with their physicians, as opposed to discussing them on unauthenticated or unprotected online platforms.  Even more troubling is the fact that many of these sites have connections with pharmaceuticals and other interested groups, which some say necessitates moderation of the sites by experts.