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Docs up in arms over website listing their profiles

Docs up in arms over website listing their profiles

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 14 Nov 2020
Author: Joyce Teo

The doctors say despite their repeated requests to remove their details from the site, DxD refused.

A war of attrition over the right to list and profile medical practitioners in Singapore on a website run by a start-up has snowballed, with hundreds of doctors wanting to be disassociated from it.

They have taken issue with the DoctorxDentist (DxD) website, which profiles medical professionals, allows purported patients to review the doctors and facilitates appointments. It also offers cost estimates for consultation.

It started with a group of doctors who say they did not give permission to the site to use photos and details from their own websites to be copied and used on DxD. They also dispute the reviews, saying there is no way to verify if the patients are real.

The doctors say despite their repeated requests to remove their details from the site, DxD refused.

Last week, the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) sent an e-mail to its members, asking them to indicate if they wished to have their profiles removed from the online platform. This list will be made public on the SMA website if DxD refuses to delist the names of doctors who want to opt out. More than 700 doctors told SMA they want out of the site.

DxD's general manager Tyr Astaroth Ding said lawyers had advised the company to "automatically list all doctors on our platform using the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) directory to retain an unbiased and comprehensive listing for our readers".

Following a query from SMA, SMC said on Thursday that it had not given permission to DxD to "use, reproduce or appropriate the comments found on the online medical register on the SMC website, and neither has the SMC received any request from DxD for permission to extract the data for use on their website".

SMA told its members that SMC will be requesting that DxD refrain from using information obtained from SMC's website.

SMA first vice-president Ng Chee Kwan said: "Doctors do not have control over how they are actually portrayed, especially for testimonials, which are a concern because as professionals, we are obliged to retain control over how we are portrayed in any form of advertising."

The Medicines (Advertisement and Sale) Act prohibits the advertising of any skills or services relating to the treatment of any diseases or medical conditions.

Dr Ng added that doctors are also concerned that they are unable to ascertain if the testimonials are written by real patients.

Ms Ding confirmed that the company helps doctors create content on the platform that will optimise searches on Google. The average cost is $7,000.

DxD said it has around 5,200 listings of doctors in private practice on its website and is actively working with around 500 doctors.

The site describes itself as a "free Question and Answer platform where contributing doctors answer all your health questions".

Cardiologist Chuang Hsuan-Hung, whose profile was removed from DxD at his request, said the site has not sought doctors' consent to represent them. "The sacrosanct relationship between doctors and patients should not be commercialised."

On the platform, some patients post photos of their problems or medical results to get another opinion. But doctors say patients may not be aware that they are posting sensitive information online.

"The way to build trust is to protect a patient's confidentiality, and if an organisation like DxD comes into the picture and does not have the same thinking, the trust that the healthcare profession needs to sustain itself will be compromised," said family physician Jeremy Chan.

He said the site offered appointment slots even for times when his clinic is closed. "If they are already mishandling our data, what other data are they not handling properly? This is probably what's on doctors' minds. You get very fearful because you don't know what they are doing."

DxD's chief executive Tristan Hahner, a German software engineer, said the site has started to "temporarily remove" the profiles of around 200 doctors who made the request in writing to DxD.

After a virtual meeting yesterday with representatives from SMA, SMC and the Ministry of Health, DxD said it will republish profiles, but will offer doctors the chance to opt out of patient reviews.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.



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