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Privacy Law

Is it OK to Google a client? A rule of thumb for physicians may work for lawyers, too

Posted Feb 12, 2014 5:05 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Patients don't hesitate to search their physicians' names on Google, to see what information they can find.

But when doctors look up their patients on the Internet, some individuals feel their privacy has been violated.

Although the American College of Physicians says doctors should avoid doing so, some run an Internet name-search on their patients anyway. Thursday Bram told CBS Miami she felt awkward when her longtime dentist asked for business advice, after looking up online what she does for a living.

While patient safety may be a good reason for making an exception to the no-Google rule, Dr. Molly Cooke said those who search may be violating a patient's trust in the physician.

“It’s hard for me to imagine how I would introduce into a conversation with a patient, 'You know, you told me you don’t smoke but I saw those pictures on Facebook of you that clearly showed you smoking,’ ” she told the station.

Dr. Haider Warraich suggests a rule of thumb for doctors that might also work well for lawyers facing a similar decision.

Before Googling, they should ask themselves "How is this going to benefit the patient?" he suggests. If no good answer comes to mind, don't do it.

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