Should This Doctor Have Slammed Her Patient on Facebook?

Eric Larson writes that even when a physician’s posting or use of social media doesn’t violate HIPAA, it can still be problematic. Consider this case, involving an OB/GYN at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo.

The doctor posted something on her Facebook page about a patient who continually was late or a no-show for scheduled appointments.  The doctor did not name the patient and the only way someone could identify the patient would be if they knew she was scheduled for an induction on that day and time.  In her response to a comment asking her why she didn’t just transfer the patient to another doctor’s care, the physician revealed a bit more – that the patient had previously endured a stillbirth. But even that information taken together with the previous comment would still not be enough to for most people to identify the patient.  But could the patient recognize herself? Of course, if she looked. And could anyone who knew her recognize her from the available information? Perhaps.  In other words, I wouldn’t have posted that, as it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of patients.

But even if it didn’t violate HIPAA, her postings offended at least one person. As Larson reports:

A woman named Amanda Johnson took a screenshot of Dunbar’s status, and, apparently outraged at what she saw as unprofessional conduct, posted the image to a Facebook group run by Dunbar’s hospital, Mercy Moms To Be.

A comment war broke out on the group’s Facebook page, with many angry commenters demanding the hospital fire or otherwise discipline Dunbar — despite the fact that the hospital later determined that no patient privacy laws were broken.

Read more on Mashable.

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