Doctors Use Facebook As A Diagnostic Tool

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook is being used increasingly in the medical field, and not only for patients seeking advice. A report from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota shows that one doctor used a patient’s Facebook profile (with her consent) to pinpoint what caused a stroke by looking at recent photographs.

Doctors Manoj Mittal, Jeff Sloan, and Alejandro Rabinstein of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota wrote a case study showing how the social network could be an efficient tool for doctors. The study describes a healthy 56-year-old woman who didn’t smoke and had no major health problems, but had recently suffered a stroke.

Previously, a doctor would examine a patient’s driver’s license photo or other previous physical photographs to look for facial differences that may yield clues. The doctors asked the woman for permission to look at her photos on Facebook, and they were able to give a correct diagnosis.

The report detailed how Facebook could play a role in the medical field in the future:

Our patient’s Facebook profile helped us to compare her current ptosis with her previous pictures at the bedside. This vital information helped us to find out the spinal manipulation done 48 hours ago, which might have led to ICA dissection, resulting in high-grade symptomatic stenosis and acute ischaemic stroke in our patient. Facebook use has been increasing in healthcare over the last few years. There are several legal and ethical challenges in using social media such as Facebook in healthcare for accessing patient information. Social media was originally designed for social communications between family and friends. Use of social media in medicine is new, and the ethical issues related to an individual’s privacy have not been delineated so far.

Readers: Would you let a doctor view your Facebook pictures if it helped with a diagnosis?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.