Forum: Patients use social media to threaten healthcare workers

I refer to reports on physical and verbal abuse against healthcare workers (Abusive patients risk being discharged from hospital amid growing number of abuse cases, March 17; Punches, slaps, vulgarities: Healthcare staff recall physical, verbal abuse, March 18).

Another form of abuse against healthcare workers is when patients or family members post their complaints on social media.

A common scenario is of a patient, unhappy with having to wait or join a queue, threatening to post a bad review online, or a damaging video of the clinic or healthcare worker on TikTok or Instagram.

Many such complaints have even gone viral on social media in the past. Doctors are bound by strict patient confidentiality rules and ethical codes and guidelines. As a result, they do not respond to online criticisms.

The public should be wary of such complaints from patients, as they tell only one side of the story. Patients’ complaints can be factually wrong, or they may not convey the full picture of a situation.

There are already proper avenues for patients to make their complaints to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Singapore Medical Council (SMC), where doctors are given the right of reply.

The problem is when unhappy patients bypass those channels and go public, and people end up hearing only one side of the story. I hope MOH and SMC will lift the gag in such instances and allow doctors to respond publicly too in such cases.

Desmond Wai (Dr)

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