Tha­b­rew, Sawyer & Eichen­berg (2018): Patient-Targeted Goog­ling by New Zea­land Men­tal Health Pro­fes­sio­nals


Back­ground: Patient-targeted goog­ling (PTG) descri­bes the sear­ching on the inter­net by health­care pro­fes­sio­nals for infor­ma­tion about pati­ents with or without their know­ledge.

Intro­duc­tion: Little rese­arch has been con­duc­ted into PTG inter­na­tio­nally. PTG can have par­ti­cu­lar ethi­cal impli­ca­ti­ons wit­hin the field of men­tal health. This study was under­ta­ken to iden­tify the extent of PTG by New Zea­land men­tal health­care pro­fes­sio­nals and needs for fur­ther gui­dance regar­ding this issue.

Mate­ri­als and Methods: All (1850) psych­ia­trists, cli­ni­cal psy­cho­lo­gists and psy­cho­the­ra­pists working in New Zea­land were elec­tro­ni­cally sur­veyed about their expe­ri­ence of PTG and know­ledge about the asso­cia­ted prac­tice of therapist-targeted goog­ling (TTG). Due to ethics and adver­ti­sing restric­tions, only one indi­rect approach was made to poten­tial par­ti­ci­pants.

Results: Eighty eight cli­ni­ci­ans (5%) respon­ded to the sur­vey invi­ta­tion. More than half (53.4%, N=47) of respond­ents repor­tedly enga­ged in PTG, but only a mino­rity (10.3%, N=9) had ever recei­ved any edu­ca­tion about the sub­ject. Rea­sons for under­ta­king PTG inclu­ded faci­li­ta­ting the the­ra­peutic pro­cess, infor­ma­tion being in the public domain and miti­ga­ting risks. Rea­sons against under­ta­king PTG inclu­ded impair­ment of the the­ra­peutic rela­ti­ons­hip, unethi­cal inva­sion of pri­vacy and con­cerns regar­ding the accu­racy and cli­ni­cal rele­vance of online infor­ma­tion. Two-thirds of par­ti­ci­pants repor­ted being the sub­ject of TTG.

Dis­cus­sion: New Zea­land psych­ia­trists, cli­ni­cal psy­cho­lo­gists and psy­cho­the­ra­pists are enga­ging in PTG with limi­ted edu­ca­tion and pro­fes­sio­nal gui­dance. Fur­ther dis­cus­sion and rese­arch are requi­red so PTG is under­ta­ken in a man­ner that is safe and use­ful for pati­ents and health prac­ti­tio­ners.

Tha­b­rew, H., Sawyer, A. & Eichen­berg, C. (2018). Patient-Targeted Goog­ling by New Zea­land Men­tal Health Pro­fes­sio­nals: A New Field Of Ethi­cal Con­side­ra­tion in the Inter­net Age. Tele­me­di­cine & e-Health, DOI: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0247.