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Sometimes it’s ethical for the doctor to Google you

The medical community needs ethical guidelines for doctors who Google their patients for information because such a move can erode confidence and trust.That’s the recommendation of a recently published research paper by professors at the Penn State College of Medicine. The study highlights how physicians have been left to navigate search engine waters on their own — and it points out the moral ambiguities involved in the practice.

“In some ways, it could be viewed by patients as somewhat weird that a medical provider might be trolling their online profile to get more information about them,” said Maria Baker, a Penn State associate professor of medicine and co-author of the research paper. “Googling a patient can undermine the trust between a patient and his or her provider, but in some cases it might be ethically justified.”

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