Okay, I have to ask: Am I the only one to find it a bit ironic that at about the same time the newest HIPAA laws were put into effect, we witnessed the birth of the age where you can post literally anything, from anywhere, to almost anyplace?
In the age of texting and Facebook posts, has personal privacy flown right out the window?
How many times have you witnessed this scene played out where you work?
- Betty, “Nurse, can you please tell me what my Step-Uncle’s condition is?”
- Nurse, “I’m sorry Betty, but due to HIPAA laws, I’m unable to tell you of your Step-Uncle’s condition unless you’re listed on his HIPAA form.
- Betty, “What do you mean?! I just read on his daughter’s Facebook page that he had complications from his gall bladder surgery! And the post-op pictures that my Grandmother took with her Droid, that were posted on her “Second Cousin’s” profile, have me concerned. And to top it all off, they won’t let me into the Recovery room so that I can see for myself!!!” Betty stomps off to find another nurse, who will tell her what’s going on....
Now, I’m certain that some people don’t mind having their medical history plastered on Facebook by a well-meaning relative or friend; but as for myself, I’d rather not have post-op photos of me appearing anywhere. Period!
On the flip-side of this issue are the benefits of using social media in patient care. Many patients have claimed that they received unprecedented and needed emotional support from friends and family due to a post on Facebook about their medical condition. Although medical care should focus on the patient, Tweets and Facebook posts have the benefit of soothing anxious loved ones as they await news from the operating or recovery room.
With the technology available to us today, packing our bags for a trip to the hospital may now very well need to include a plan and/or instructions for our doctors and family members in regards to how to handle our social media.
As a medical professional, how do you handle this issue? Have you been asked by a patient to provide information to an approved family member so that they can post said information to their favorite social media account?
What do you do when confronted with a friend or distant relative seeking information for a patient that you clearly know is protected by HIPAA laws? Do you stick to your guns – suggesting that Betty, herself, go and ask “Step-Uncle” how he’s doing? (Assuming ‘Step-Uncle’ will let Betty into his room.) Or, do you give in – knowing that Betty probably knows more about “Step-Uncle’s” condition than you do, thanks to “Second-Cousin’s” posts?
I can assure you, that as a patient, I would be furious if my nurse gave information out to my distant relative – well meaning or not. And I’d probably be a little perturbed if my Grandmother took post-op pictures of me - and mad at my daughter for letting my Second Cousin steal Grandma’s phone and post my photos to his profile! Wait, who was supposed to be at the hospital with me again...?
All kidding aside, do you see where this is going? Is there a way for us to protect ourselves from social media overload when it comes to our healthcare privacy? As a medical professional, how do you protect your patient’s privacy? As a patient, what do you do to ensure your privacy? Do you have a “Social Media Healthcare Plan”? Is there such a thing?
Do you think that a patient’s care plan should now include a Social Media plan?
If you’ve ever experienced a run-in with a patient’s relative or a friend like “Betty”, we’d love it if you shared your comments and stories with us. Tell us what you think of the challenges as a healthcare professional in today’s “Social Media World”!
Labels: healthcare plan, patient care plan, privacy laws, smart phones, social media, social media overload