Respecting privacy with social media

Online privacyFacebook and social media are great outlets for people to vent with friends.  People go online to complain about the weather (especially here in Western New York), sports teams, a bad day, boredom, etc… but what are the rules of the discussion?  Are there any topics that are off limits – politics, religion, or personal matters?

A doctor from Rhode Island just found out the hard way that patient privacy is definitely not a topic that should be shared publicly through social media.  “Dr. Alexandra Thran, 48, was fired from the hospital last year and reprimanded by the state medical board last week. The hospital took away her privileges to work in the emergency room for posting information online about a trauma patient.”  While Dr Thran’s post did not actually include the patient’s name, apparently enough facts were included for others in the community to properly identify the individual.

While this may seem obvious to some, to others discussing their daily grind is a normal routine.  There can be a lot of gray area for appropriate content.  There comes a time when common sense should prevail.  If you are not sure about something you are about to post, you probably shouldn’t be clicking submit.  I’ve often thought about launching the social media hall of shame – to showcase social media bloopers and blunders.  They are everyday occurrences.  Just a few years ago the biggest concern was clicking “reply all” to an email.  Now a simple post or tweet has trumped the old school email.

There is a lot to be learned from this Rhode Island case.  I’m sure much of the healthcare industry is taking note and working to implement training programs and education for appropriate use of social media.  With liability concerns, health privacy issues (HIPAA), and reputation there is a lot at stake for health facilities.  It’ll be interesting to see how other healthcare institutions react to this occurrence.

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