Hospitals

The Value of Anonymity in Online Medical Crowdsourcing Communities

The value of anonymity in online medical crowdsourcing communities has been debated in the past. Is there truly a need to be anonymous when talking with peers in a professional only community? We live in a litigation happy society. People are always looking to cast blame on someone. Just witness the scores of unsolicited mail […]

The value of anonymity in online medical crowdsourcing communities has been debated in the past. Is there truly a need to be anonymous when talking with peers in a professional only community? We live in a litigation happy society. People are always looking to cast blame on someone. Just witness the scores of unsolicited mail someone receives from random lawyers if they are ever in a car accident. This is especially the case in medicine where healthcare workers are bound by the more rigorous HIPAA mandates.
Physician only communities are starting to become a more frequent part of the medical online landscape. It is a place that is safe for physicians to discuss medicine outside the public’s views. Crowdsourcing happens when doctors sharing difficult or interesting cases and asks for the wisdom of the crowds, in this case other physicians. Some may say that if the community is restricted to only physicians, there is no need for anonymity. But, the safety factor is clearly better when you are allowed to remain unnamed.

Why is anonymity beneficial in a doctors only crowd-sourcing community?

– Doctors deal with difficult and challenging cases. Sometimes, we may wonder if we made a mistake. While it is a closed community, doctors may not want their co-workers and hospital administrators to see such conversations if they were happen to see the discussion.
– There is no greater assurance of HIPAA compliance when the doctor is anonymous as well as the patient. It would be near impossible to trace a specific case back to a single patient or even a particular doctor.
– Sometimes doctors need to vent about frustrations in their workplace. We do not have time when we are doing rounds or taking care of patients to communicate about personal matters with our colleagues. But, who better to understand the daily frustrations we face in our practice of medicine than other physicians? Imagine expressing concern about another doctor you work with or even a superior and having them stumble upon that conversation and recognize you because your name is there? As we know in these days of social media, things said online can have real world percussions. Anonymity protects us from some of those percussions.
– Doctors are suffering burnout at astonishing rates. We have so much more pressure on us these days, from new medical innovations exploding on the scene to all the new mandates being laid on our heads. We are spending more and more hours in the practice and business of medicine. We don’t have so much time to let off some steam in real life. But having a community available gives us that freedom. And being anonymous allows us to say what we feel. We may express depressed thoughts we are having and our peers will step up and give us the support we need. But, we may not want our real life peers to know we are struggling with this.

Crowdsourcing medical communities are transforming the way physicians interact before our eyes. Anonymity allows it to expand so much more and makes our interactions that much more powerful. As medicine goes global, anonymous communities will surely play a major role in revolutionizing medicine.

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