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27 November 2013
Dr Sally Old, MDU medico-legal adviser
Medical apps have great potential for supporting medical education. But if you're considering creating your own, remember that your ethical obligations are the same as those for any publication.
In its guidance Doctors' use of social media, the GMC states 'the standards expected of doctors do not change' because communication is digital rather than face to face or by other traditional media.
Doctors marketing a medical app, or any other type of app, should be transparent about their involvement. The GMC advises 'you should also identify yourself by name. Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely'. You should also be aware that 'content uploaded anonymously can, in many cases, be traced back to its point of origin'.
As a doctor involved in producing an app, you are responsible for its accuracy. Paragraph 71 of Good medical practice (2013) states:
'You must be honest and trustworthy when writing reports, and when completing or signing forms, reports and other documents. You must make sure that any documents you write or sign are not false or misleading.
a. You must take reasonable steps to check the information is correct.
b. You must not deliberately leave out relevant information.'
In its guidance Doctors' use of social media, the GMC states: 'When you post material online you should be open about any conflict of interest and declare any financial or commercial interests you have in healthcare organisations or pharmaceutical and biomedical companies'
Also, as Good medical practice (2013) paragraph 70 reminds us:
'When advertising your services, you must make sure the information you publish is factual and can be checked, and does not exploit patients' vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge.'
Designing a medical app, Student BMJ, Adrian Raudaschl, April 2013.
This guidance was correct at publication 27/11/2013. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.
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