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Title: The value (or otherwise) of social media to the medical professional: some personal reflections
Authors: Noakes, Timothy David 
Keywords: Social media;medical professional;value
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Allergy Soc South Africa
Source: Noakes, T.D. 2021. The value (or otherwise) of social media to the medical professional: some personal reflections. Current Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 34(1): 1-7. []
Journal: Current Allergy and Clinical Immunology 
Abstract: Between June 2015 and June 2018, I was engaged in a 28-day hearing conducted by lawyers representing the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). I faced a charge of unprofessional conduct for a seven-word Tweet that I typed in February 2014. The charge of unprofessional conduct was based essentially on the accusation that by answering a request for information on Twitter I had automatically entered a doctor–patient relationship; I had given medical advice that was incorrect because it was ‘unconventional’ and not ‘evidence-based’; I had not fulfilled my duty of care to the patient; and that I had potentially put the lives and health of ‘millions’ of infants at risk. It was not difficult to disprove all these concocted charges even though it took 28 days in court at a total cost to both parties combined that probably exceeded R15 million. My legal team and I were able to show that: (i) I had not entered a doctor–patient relationship on Twitter; (ii) I had provided medical information not medical advice in response to a ‘we’ question; (iii) the information I had provided was 100% compatible with the South African and World Health Organization Dietary Guidelines for complementary infant feeding; and (iv) in the broader picture, the general dietary advice that I favour – the low-carbohydrate high-healthy-fat diet – is neither ‘unconventional’ nor ‘not evidence-based’. While on the surface the trial was ostensibly about the ‘dangers’ of a seven-word Tweet, there were a number of covert agendas acting out behind the scenes. It was surprising, for example, that so many of the key witnesses for the prosecution had links to a shadowy international front organisation, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), whose established goal is to control national dietary and exercise policies on a global scale and ‘to marginalise unfavourable positions’, mine included. Or perhaps an undisclosed aim was to restrict the future freedom of speech of practitioners registered with the HPCSA. For had I lost the case, registered practitioners would no longer be absolutely certain that any information they shared when either lecturing, writing, speaking in public or interacting on social media on any medical topic whether dealing with individuals (medical advice) or groups (medical information), might not result in their being charged as was I. By winning this matter, this danger has been averted. I expand the article by explaining why I believe that, if used properly, social media tools such as Twitter have enormous educational potential for scientists and students especially, but also for clinicians.
ISSN: 1609-3607
Appears in Collections:FID - Journal Articles (DHET subsidised)

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