Recently a doctor posted an interesting case that she had seen in the emergency room and discussed the symptoms. Although she did NOT disclose the name of the patient, enough was mentioned in the presentation of the case for some people to guess at the patient’s identity.
This was enough to have the physician fired from the staff of the hospital with her privileges revoked. This punishment is not to be taken lightly. Her livelihood and earnings were tied to the hospital. Where now was she going to treat her sick patients?
It is crucial at this point for you to understand the social media regulations for physicians if you are going to use this modality.
HIPAA’s regulations stipulate that it is not only prohibited to disclose a patient’s name, but also “individually identifiable health information,” and requires the safeguarding of any information where there is a “reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual.” This was the issue in the true scenario discussed above.
As with the myriad of permission forms already obtained from patients, doctors should get a written consent from a patient to profile on a website for safety. This way, there is no question about usage. Knowing this is only partially the answer. The staff at the healthcare facility or physician’s office, must be aware of privacy rulings and should periodically peruse the social media sites to ensure compliance. This is a good idea anyway so that if there are negative comments about the physician, damage control can be immediately instituted before it spreads virally.