Healthcare News & Insights

HIPAA nightmare: Staffers blogging patient info

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You’d think it’d go without saying that health care workers shouldn’t include patient info in their Twitter or Facebook posts. You’d be wrong.

A recent survey of med school deans found that 60% had dealt with incidents of medical students using various social networking media (including Twitter, YouTube and Flickr) to make “unprofessional” postings.

Worse: 13% of survey respondents said the messages amounted to breaches of patient privacy.

Of course, it’s not just med students that have this problem.

Many people lose sight of the need to maintain strict barriers for the kinds of information they share online. The study showed that problem is most widespread among so-called Gen Y staffers and students, who were basically raised on social media. They’re used to having their lives documented online, and don’t think twice about sharing anything on the Web.

Privacy concerns vs. learning opportunities

Muddying the waters is this fact: There’s a clear benefit to students, doctors and staffers discussing some patient information. Peer-to-peer discussion of patient-care situations can help teach not only the nuts-and-bolts of procedural training, it can also help students and staffers-in-training develop more empathy and understanding of various patient needs.

You can’t — and probably shouldn’t — ban all non-critical discussion of patient-care among staffers.

But it’s worth reminding employees: No matter how many privacy and security tools you use on your online postings, nothing on the Internet is ever really private.

Click here for more information about HIPAA.

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Comments

  1. Re: Peer-to-peer discussion of patient-care situations can help teach …

    Management should provide a secure forum for such discussions. With that in place, a policy banning public discussion of patient care is reasonable and effective.

  2. HIPAA does not apply to information collected for “treatment, payment or operations” so as long as the information complies with all local and state confidentiality regulations, it seems that a secure/encrypted, facility sponsored forum would be reasonable. My concern is that with current attempts to “hack” into secure systems, the maintenance on this discussion board would in itself require constant surveillance. It does seem that we should encourage utilization of technology and encourage discussion which would improve the quality of care.

  3. There are some interesting points in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them heart to heart. There is some validity but I will hold judgement until I look into it further. Good clause, thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner too.

  4. Re: Peer-to-peer discussion of patient-care situations can help teach …

    Management should provide a secure forum for such discussions. With that in place, a policy banning public discussion of patient care is reasonable and effective.

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