restricted access Screen Shots: When Patients and Families Publish Negative Health Care Narratives Online


Social media sites and their relationship to health care is a subject of intense debate. Common discussions regarding social media address patient privacy, or e-professionalism. This case study explores the tensions that arise for health care providers when negative patient statements surface in social media and blog forums. Recognizing that patients and families often find relief in sharing personal illness narratives, we contemplate if, and how, individual health care professionals and institutions should address complaints aired in public, unmoderated media. Our discussion begins by presenting a case of a family blogging on the Internet to share grievances (to deidentify the case, we have changed some details). Next, we offer an exploration of the impact on health care delivery when professionals become aware of specific criticisms published online. Strategies for managing electronic criticisms are then proposed. We conclude by proposing a novel E-THICS approach to address negative patient expressions via electronic word of mouth (eWOM). Our examination of this evolving issue focuses on maintaining satisfactory relationships between health care providers and patients/families when dealing with health care narratives published in open online media.