Dubai: Posting unauthorised health information on social media could land you in trouble as authorities in the UAE will have stricter control over healthcare-related information on social media. Plans are afoot to regulate healthcare-related posts by non-professionals and unauthorised posts by health professionals, a top official said on Monday.
The need for having better control over health-related posts on social media has arisen to prevent the misuse of social media in spreading wrong and harmful health messages, according to Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Public Health Policy and Licensing at the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Speaking at the first Middle East Healthcare Social Media Summit in Dubai, Dr Al Amiri said social media can be misused by members of the public, including influencers from other fields and by healthcare professionals who post health information that are not under their purview.
“Due to the issues that come out from both parties, either the public or health professionals, we are trying to have stronger criteria [to monitor social media],” he said at a session.
Guidelines in the pipeline
He said the health ministry would be working with various authorities such as the Ministry of Interior, the UAE’s media authorities, and different departments to have guidelines to control potentially harmful health messages on social media.
“It is important to have guidelines but also control the community and professionals not to exceed their limitations… Otherwise, the impact [of misleading social media messages] will be very bad,” said Dr Al Amiri.
He provided some examples where misleading posts led to health issues for people who followed them. Those included the case of a newly-married woman burning her face after mixing three creams to whiten her face as advised by a fashionista on her social media pages.
We are trying to work with different ministries in the country to make sure that none of the non-health professionals could talk about health as it is not their specialty and the public should take the right information from the right source.
He cited examples of healthcare professionals spreading information that is beyond their specialities also. “I shouldn’t announce anything out of my specialty unless it is general information,” he said.
Some doctors spreading rumours about non-existing harmful effects of certain vaccines was cited as an example.
Speaking to Gulf News later, he said: “We are trying to work with different ministries in the country to make sure that none of the non-health professionals could talk about health as it is not their specialty and the public should take the right information from the right source.”
He pointed out that existing laws in the country also hold social media users responsible for reposting misleading and wrong information.
Social media policy
The social media policy for health professionals will focus on ensuring that they are providing evidence-based information, he said.
The law on medical advertisement generally covers all the information that can be propagated by healthcare professionals and facilities.
“Probably with the involvement and expansion of social media, we need to update our laws.”
The official said the public can contact the ministry’s hotline 80011111 to verify the correctness of health related social media posts.
“We announce the verified information through the government media communication department.”
Another speaker, Hadeel Hajar, manager, clinical licensing department at Dubai Healthcare City Authority’s regulatory sector, said patients should not resort to raise complaints about healthcare professionals and establishments on social media.
She pointed out that patients having complaints should approach the right authorities who can extend protection and justice.
“When a patient comes online when there is an adverse event and says this happened…it is some kind of a venting mechanism. The intention is either to harm the doctor to make financial gains or for supporting competitors.”
“If a patient comes online and speaks about negative experiences, it can be tracked and looked into by authorities.”
She said authorities would investigate such matters in a way similar to how they deal with posts affecting national security.
The two-day summit organised by Mayo Clinic in collaboration with The Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and American Hospital Dubai brought together healthcare providers and decision makers spanning various sectors to analyse the impact of social media on healthcare and chart the best way forward.
Dubai issues guidelines for medical ads on social media
Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has issued guidelines for medical advertisement content on social media by healthcare professionals and providers, a senior official said on Monday.
Dr Marwan Mohammad Al Mulla, CEO, Health Regulation Sector, DHA, said social media posts on medical advertisements in Dubai are now governed by the guidelines issued by the authority in September.
Speaking at the first Middle East Healthcare Social Media Summit in Dubai, he said: “We want to encourage the adoption of best international practices and help and guide them [health professionals] on how to give correct medical information through social media and not to give wrong information.”
“We have to find the right balance between public protection and promotion of health services. We are promoting health tourism in Dubai. Giving misinformation [on social media] will decrease trust [of medical tourists in the system].”
The official said non-complying posts will be ordered to be removed. “If they are not cooperating, we will go to the step of [handling] violations].”