There has been a lot of buzz around the Blogosphere (more specifically the medical circles of the Blogosphere) lately about medical professionals’, their personal and/or professional blog habits and HIPAA. Do we professionals follow any specific guidelines when blogging about our job, our co-workers, or our patients? How about the information we share on our social networking websites? What about privacy, and identity management?
I believe some of my fellow med-blogger’s have touched on this subject from more than one direction. Phil Baumann, a fellow RN, touched on the gravity of our actions and what subject matter we discuss when using Twitter. Other med-blogger’s, including Not Nurse Ratched, PixelRN, and Emergiblog have shared their insight and opinions concerning this issue as well.
And then last week fuel was added to the fire when 2 employees from a New Mexico Hospital lost their respective jobs after they took pictures of patients receiving treatment and then posting the images to a social networking Web site.
In an ironic twist of fate, at work this week we were doing some ‘Fall’ cleaning in our unit and we stumbled across some very old photos. Photos of the department from years ago. I’m talking everything from 2 yrs ago up to maybe a couple decades at least.
One particular photo stuck out. It was a photo of a previous staff nurse on the job. And in the photo was the nurse at one of the bed stations, and in the far background of the photo was a picture of a patient.
It was a harmless photo. From the looks of it, I think they were simply trying to burn off the last pictures of a roll of film and just started snappin’ photos. (I’ve done this more times than I can remember) But the gravity of that picture hit me like a ton of bricks!
Do you think that picture would have been taken in this day and age? Do you think the camera would have even been near the patient bedside?
It made me reflect on the subject at hand.
Internet – Blogosphere – Medical Profession- HIPAA – Identity
I’ve been listening to the voices, and reading the posts lately and I still have the same opinion I did when this all originally surfaced.
Your actions as a professional in the (Virtual) electronic world should reflect your actions as a professional in the (sorry…) REAL world.
You already know how to act in a prudent, ethical and responsible manner as a professional. You get an annual reminder from the facility that employs you. I know I do!
After you’ve been working in the medical profession long enough you develop a sort of sixth sense for what is right and what is not. For what is within the limits of the law, and what is breaking the law. You intuitively know WHAT you can and cannot say, WHERE you can or cannot say it, and TO WHOM you can or cannot say it to.
How can being on the internet make things so gray and vague? How does pushing buttons on a keyboard or clicking a mouse change the rules?
It’s very simple.
We all know the arms of HIPAA extend past the walls of our employer. You must act as a professional in a professional manner even when you are not on the clock.
Whatever it is you are sharing or typing, where ever you may be located on the world wide web, and with whomever your sharing it with. If you are at all confused or unsure of the legality of your actions.
Ask yourself this one simple question:
Would you be doing it if you WEREN’T on the internet?
Then don’t do it AT ALL.