COVID-19 and conduct: social media warning

The Board has warned pharmacists to be aware of their social media obligations, after receiving concerns expressed about the conduct of some health practitioners

In the Pharmacy Board’s latest newsletter, it notes that AHPRA and the national Boards of registered health practitioners “appreciate the importance of a vigorous national debate on public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“However, we remind all registered health practitioners that their obligation to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, applies in all settings – including online,” the Board notes.

“The Codes of conduct emphasise that practitioners must always communicate professionally and respectfully with or about other health care professionals.

“We have received concerns about the conduct of some health practitioners engaged in online discussion, including in semi-private forums.

“Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential.

“Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to maintain professional and ethical standards, as in all professional circumstances.”

While the Board did not mention any particular case in its warning to pharmacists, the activity of health professionals on social media has been under the spotlight this year.

In August, the AJP reported on the case of a doctor whose registration was immediately suspended after authorities found social media posts promoting vitamin C for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.

This doctor also made or reposted commentary on vaccines, the immigration of Muslims to Australia, psychiatrists and “Big Pharma”.

In May, a medical practitioner was reprimanded and suspended after he used Instagram among other methods to send sexually insulting messages to a fellow practitioner who he wanted to date, but who had said she was not interested.

Researchers have also found that pharmacists can be a key player in countering misinformation about COVID-19 which patients may pick up on social media.

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