Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Warning For Healthcare Providers: Don't Share Patient Info On The Web

Social networks such as Facebook have revolutionized how many of us, especially the younger crowd, interact and share information. This can have many positive effects drawing people together who had previously lost all contact. But it also has a negative side. We have already seen the cyber-bullying cases. Now comes a new problem; nurses and other providers sharing stories about patients on their Facebook page.

At least five employees at Tri City Medical Center in California will most likely be losing their jobs because of postings they made to Facebook talking about patients they cared for. Although no names or ID numbers were used, the postings appear to be a a clear HIPAA violation according to sources at the hospital. The nurses involved claim that they only posted hypothetical patient scenarios to discuss with other nurses for educational purposes. Hospital officials contend that the information posted was about actual patients and for the purposes of gossip.

This case merits a warning to all healthcare providers that they keep all patient information confidential, particularly when posting on a public, or at least semi-public website. I would like to think that there are never any inappropriate discussions about patients, but I'm sure that sharing this kind of information among colleagues is not new. The problem is that leaving written information on a website forces the hand of the hospital to take action.

Let's take our patient's rights seriously and leave Facebook for connecting with friends.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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