Patients are increasingly demanding online ways of interacting with their providers. As social media evolve, improve and proliferate, the ePatient movement will continue to expand and the healthcare industry will have to develop ways to meet the demand.

Real-time microblogging is compounding the speed of this narrowing space between patient and professional.

But social media is also increasingly shortening the spaces of intimacy and boundaries between people. This means that as health care professionals interactively enter the Web, the tension between intimacy and boundaries will increase.

We could say that there exists a safety zone between intimacy and professional boundary. These zones have traditionally been worked out for in-person clinical relationships. Online, however, we have a long way until we establish a collective understanding of how these technologies affect our virtual health care experience.

Since the space is shrinking to a thin wall, I've decided to call this problem the "intimacy-boundary membrane". How do we go about protecting that membrane?

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