Privacy and Confidentiality
I don't know about you, but there isn't a day that goes by
when I don't have some sort of umm....interesting
experience at work. I understand how awfully tempting it is to jump on Facebook
or Twitter and share the events of my day with all 100+ or so of my closest
"friends". It's so very rewarding to watch a post collect "likes" and snarky
remarks, isn't it?
Periodically I feel the need to remind all of you to use
caution when posting on social media. I'm sure you have all heard the warnings
about how employers are Googling applicants to see what they have been up to
online, but did you know that what you post might get you into some hot water
(and by hot water I mean fired) with your current employer?
Posting a heartwarming or funny story about a patient might
seem harmless enough but all it takes is for someone to recognize either
themselves or someone they know in your post and BINGO! You have just violated patient
confidentiality. Buh-bye. Oh, and if losing your job isn't bad enough, it's
possible for you to be sued, too.
Ok, so that covers social media, but there are other ways
you to get in trouble on the internet too. Beware the "most interesting
patient" submissions. Often popular blogs or websites that cater to health
professionals will ask you to submit a case study or encounter as part of a
contest or promotion. Or maybe you are responding to a case study with an
example of your own. Sounds innocent doesn't it? Actually, the risk of "outing"
a particular patient in this instance might be even greater since your
colleagues and/or employer might be also visiting the same website.
These contests and forums are great learning experiences,
but they make the recruiter in me a little nervous and I advise you to exercise
some caution if you decide to contribute. Anytime you are relating a story
about a current or former patient you should alter or change enough of the
details and identifying characteristics to be sure that no one will recognize
the identity of your patient.
And don't be lulled into thinking that any website or social
media can be "private". Facebook has recently announced changes that are going
to make all your posts more public regardless of your settings. Even
information on so-called secure and password protected members-only forums or
paid journal sites can be vulnerable. Firewalls can malfunction and data can be
left exposed. Sharing can easily occur by using the cut and paste feature. Next
thing you know your story has made its way onto someone's blog or Facebook