Should Your Social Graph Be In Your Medical Record?

In my previous post, I waxed philosophical about the dark ethics of social media – with an arguably absurd hypothetical question. You can ponder it here.

Building on some of the questions concerning the intersection of social media and healthcare, let’s think about another hypothetical question:

Should your social graph (well, maybe not the entire graph – but your identities at least) be included in your medical record?

After all, think about the other identified media in your medical record: Phone Number, Address, Emergency Contact, etc.

We all know the trend of our identities is heading towards the ‘cloud’.

That is, at some point your identity will be your Twitter, Facebook, Google or FutureSoMe username.

So embedded in the title of my post are two things:

  • Your online identity (e.g. your social media account(s))
  • The ‘graph’ of the connections among your usernames, the other usernames connected to you, the content and meta-data on the content your radiate, etc.

Obviously first is component – your identity – raises a lower order of complexity than the second.

Still, your Twitter username is a different form of identity than your telephone number. So having your username in your medical record carries implications – who has access to your username?, etc.

The second component – your graph – well, that raises some rather fascinating stuffs. Good, bad and uncertain.

For instance, on one hand it could be argued that as more of us live online, our social graph meshes with our health care. Thus there may be ways to integrate your graph into your medical record in meaningful, relevant ways.

On the other, what are the boundaries of such integration? What are the possible harms?

Again, what ethical territory could we be entering?

These are just questions. You can dismiss them. Be my guest.

…Or you can entertain them and perhaps find out the social media – like space – is a strange substance, that bends and warps and isn’t quite exactly what it appears to our prejudiced senses.

Phil Baumann



0 Replies to “Should Your Social Graph Be In Your Medical Record?”

  1. Our social graph is also a big part of our health in a direct way. Just started reading James Fowler’s “Connected” Raises some key questions. Insurers and maybe even you doctor will soon want this information as it can be a powerful predictor of your future health.

    For the most part, our social graphs are public, so putting them in the record just simplifies the matter. It doesn’t make the information any more accessible, just more readily available and convenient.

    In ten years, assuming we’re freed from having to worry about losing insurance based on prior conditions, I wouldn’t be surprised to see whether many of us aren’t putting our health record into our social graph.

  2. This is excellent. We need to send these questions around the interwebs and get the pros and cons of which I can see both. I know we’re conflicted about allowing our users to share their data via social media, especially wondering where our responsibility as the host of data leaves off and the responsibility of keep that data safe falls on the social media platform. You’ve inspired me to delve deeper into this matter.

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