Doctors in the UK are increasingly using Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat to discuss information about their patients, despite a ban on the use of internet- based messaging apps, experts say. Due to the lack of digital sharing systems, UK’s National Health Service (NHS) doctor use groups on Facebook and Whatsapp to share details about patients, according to Alisdair Macnair, an NHS doctor based at Cambridge. Use of internet-based messaging apps to send patient information is banned by the NHS. “I have also seen chat on Facebook groups that sails pretty close to the wind in terms of discussing medical information,” Macnair told the ‘BBC’.
“I’ve definitely seen stuff which is one step away from being patient identifying,” Macnair said. “I am empathetic with doctors because there is a need and desire among healthcare professionals to share this information and the fact that nothing exists for them to do so is a huge problem,” said Kate McCarthy, healthcare analyst at UK-based Forrester Research. “The reality is that doctors are responding to the inadequacy of what the NHS is providing,” McCarthy said.
The way UK’s health service looks after data has come under spotlight after an Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigation found that 1.6 million patient records were shared with Google’s DeepMind. The artificial intelligence company said it was developing an app to alert doctors and nurses about patients at risk of kidney injury. The ICO found that the NHS had breached data laws by allowing DeepMind to access the records. A subsequent report from an independent panel set up by DeepMind to assess its work suggested that the NHS’s use of technology was in a dire state.