Dialogue Volume 13 Issue 2 2017 - Page 43

section Tk practice partner

Keeping it Confidential on the World ’ s Biggest Elevator

Patient privacy is paramount when doctors take to social media

DOC TALK

By Stuart Foxman illustration : sandy nichols

You ’ re on an elevator talking to a colleague about a patient . The doors open and a few people enter . How careful are you to respect the patient ’ s privacy ? What if this elevator holds not just a handful of people but hundreds , thousands , or tens of thousands ? Social media is the world ’ s biggest elevator . Everyone can hear what you ’ re saying . Some medical professionals have learned that the hard way . In Rhode Island , an emergency room doctor lost her job , and was reprimanded by her regulator , after posting information about a patient on Facebook . She didn ’ t mention the patient ’ s name , but provided enough information so that others could recognize the individual .

Also on Facebook , a Missouri obstetrician criticized a patient who was always late for her prenatal visits , revealed that the patient previously had a stillbirth and ( in retaliation for the patient ’ s tardiness ) joked about showing up late to do the delivery . Doctors who use online forums to discuss cases with other practitioners may think they are protecting confidentiality , but removing patients ’ names is just not enough . In one instance , a visitor to a hospital in London , England posted a picture of himself with doctors . In the shot , which went out to his 70,000 Twitter followers , a board in the background was visible . It listed patient names . The tweeter wasn ’ t a doctor but Jeremy Hunt – the country ’ s Health Secretary . With social media , the platforms may be
Issue 2 , 2017 Dialogue 43
section Tk practice partner Keeping it Confidential on the World’s Biggest Elevator Patient privacy is paramount when doctors take to social media DOC TALK By Stuart Foxman Y ou’re on an elevator talking to a colleague about a patient. The doors open and a few people enter. How careful are you to respect the patient’s privacy? What if this el- evator holds not just a handful of people but hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands? Social media is the world’s biggest elevator. Everyone can hear what you’re saying. Some medical professionals have learned that the hard way. In Rhode Island, an emergency room doc- tor lost her job, and was reprimanded by her regulator, after posting information about a patient on Facebook. She didn’t mention the patient’s name, but provided enough infor- mation so that others could recognize the individual. Also on Facebook, a Missouri obstetrician criticized a patient who was always late for her prenatal visits, revealed that the patient previously had a stillbirth and (in retaliation for the patient’s tardiness) joked about show- ing up late to do the delivery. Doctors who use online forums to discuss cases with other practitioners may think they are protecting confidentiality, but removing patients’ names is jus BBVVvखR7F6Rf6F"F7FFVvB7FVB7GW&Rb6V`vFF7F'2FR6Bv6vVBW@F2sGvGFW"fvW'2&&BFR&6w&VBv2f6&RBƗ7FVBFV@W2FRGvVWFW"v6( BF7F"'WBW"ЦVגVB( 2FR6VG'( 2VF6V7&WF'vF66VFFRFf&2&P77VR"#rFwVPC