Doctors Caught Revealing Info About Patients On Facebook

from the not-smart dept

Earlier this year, we noted that the Journal of Medical Ethics was recommending doctors stay off Facebook entirely. I thought that was kind of silly, so long as doctors were aware of what they were doing on social networking sites, what was the problem? Well, apparently, not all doctors are particularly smart or discreet when it comes to using such tools, and a doctor in Australia has been reprimanded for revealing patient info on his Facebook account… which the patient later saw. You would think that even if a doctor was clueless enough to reveal info about patients on Facebook that he or she would at least keep that info private, but apparently, not every doctor has basic common sense.

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Comments on “Doctors Caught Revealing Info About Patients On Facebook”

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14 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

In these type of cases I’m all in favor of gradual response, you educate the people who did something by mistake and then if it happens in the future you know he is doing it with full knowledge and has no excuses and need something more stronger but I think the ultimate punishment is to let people know what he/she did there should be a database with all the wrongs he was caught doing it so people can decide if they want to consult with someone like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

So, having read the article, it doesn’t actually state what was disclosed, but it suggests that it was a snarky comment of some sort that the pt in question later read and identified as being directed at them.

Here’s the thing, and I’m going to address this from a US-centric POV, simply because those are the laws and ethical guidelines I’m best familiar with (being a US healthcare professional, though not an MD or DO.).

The ethical guidance is pretty clear, don’t talk about a patient’s condition (or even that they are a patient) in such a way or venue that it and the patient’s identity could be revealed to anyone who doesn’t already know or have a professional reason to know. And that’s basically how it’s codified in HIPAA, the law which, among other things, covers medical privacy.

What this interpretation then allows is things like “A 16 year old female presented with [symptoms], laboratory testing revealed a positive result for chlamydia…”, it disallows, “Oh man, Meg Griffin came in to the office today, and she has the clap, what a slut!”.

Where you start to get into a bit more of a grey area is with comments like, “Had a patient come in today wearing this ugly pink shirt with matching beanie, she swore she was a virgin, but she turned up positive for chlamydia. Not only no fashion sense, but also no common sense.”. The problem here is that while someone completely unfamiliar with Meg (Who, by the way, is a character from The Family Guy, just to make sure people know this is a fictional reference.) would be completely unable to connect the dots, someone who knew Meg, as well as Meg herself (as sounds to be the case here), could say with a fair degree of certainty who was being referred to.

The problem you run into is that everyone needs to kvetch about their job, Everyone.

I don’t really think it’s a great idea to do that kvetching on facebook, or any forum where you can’t reasonably control dissemination, whether you work in healthcare or not, but then, I don’t so much as have a facebook profile, so…

All I’m saying (in an incredibly verbose fashion) is that without specifics of where on the spectrum of possible comments what this doctor said falls, it’s impossible to say whether or not (s)he violated ethical or legal guidelines for disclosure of pt information.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Wasn't Australia once a penal colony?

Heh. Probably explains all the penal issues down under.

Joking, so Aussies need not get upset.

However, here in the states, we have this law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Now, if you’re a patient and you see some quack posting your info online, that’s better than winning the lottery and you can put the smack on the quack.

Unfortunately, you can’t do squat if he’s bragging about banging your wife.

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