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Doctor's Practice Seeks To Stifle Social Media Criticism

You Might Feel A Little Prick

It’s a well-established fact that in the age of social media, no one’s opinion is their own. Your judgement on everything from your local pizza place to your children’s school to the very street you’re walking down can be written up, posted online, and join the constant stream of assessment and quality monitoring which flows around every public service.

There are some services in particular which need especially close attention paid to them; doctors, for instance. There was a time when a medical professional could get away with being really quite bad at their job for a very long time, mainly because people had nothing to compare it to and even if they did there was no way to make their thoughts known.

Evidently many still yearn for those halcyon days when a doctor could sweep the odd misdiagnosis or accidentally amputated limb under the carpet and have no one the wiser. Just such an attitude came to light recently when patients at St Lawrence Medical Practice in Braintree were instructed in no uncertain terms that the posting of comments or complaints about the practice on social media was forbidden. Dissatisfied individuals were advised to direct their grumblings to Practice Manager (in writing, no less – a delightfully retro system to implement, or perhaps a government-wide conspiracy to prop up the ailing Royal Mail through the necessary deluge of letters which must have resulted from this advice) rather than airing their views on Twitter or Facebook.

The clinic claimed that the ban was implemented after staff found ‘appalling’ language used by patients to describe the practice on the Facebook page of a local paper.

Firstly, it’s rather sweet that staff believe that the kind of person who would pour out vitriol about a doctor on the internet would be dissuaded by a sternly worded sign posted in a waiting room. The potential ineffectiveness of the sign was demonstrated in a thread discussing the story on the same Facebook page of the local paper which was the source of the original offense, with one resident opining that ‘They don’t give a shit when your [sic] begging for an appointment…Pricks.’

Secondly, this is precisely what the internet is for. St. Lawrence is not the first institution to find itself on the receiving end of some less than positive feedback, and it is also not the first to attempt to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. The practice has received some less than stellar reviews on the NHS.uk official website – appropriately not so much for the quality of care as for their customer service and administrative capabilities.

The importance of this is that the internet, and the ease of expression on social media, is a great democratiser. The flipside is the responsibility inherent in being able to contribute to a global discussion at any time, on any subject – a certain level of decorum would make the whole process more pleasant for everyone, and may encourage places like St. Lawrence’s to heed the advice of their patients rather than attempt to stifle them entirely.

Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Doctor's Practice Seeks To Stifle Social Media Criticism Reviewed by Anonymous on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 Rating: 5
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