All patients have a right to privacy and medical practitioners need to be doubly aware of this. Doctors, nurses, and other people working in the medical profession have all taken an oath to protect patient confidentiality – unfortunately, this is something easier said than done and they occasionally let some pieces of information slip.
One doctor was censured by the Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline for disclosing a string of information that led to the identification of her patient on Facebook. She posted about her experiences at the Emergency Room, including the nature of her patient’s injury which, in turn, allowed a third party to guess who exactly the patient was. The doctor did not state any names, but because the information she posted allowed for the identification of her patient, the board ruled that she had violated patient confidentiality. The said doctor deleted her account soon after she learned what had happened. She must have been horrified that her lack of discretion on what to post on Facebook had harmed her career. She was formally reprimanded by the board and made to pay a $500 administrative fee.
It’s understandable why some people would want to share details about their day and doctors happen to be human just like the rest of us. But unfortunately for them, they have an added responsibility towards their patients. Upholding patient confidentiality is a must in the medical profession and doctors can’t just go around disclosing information that they’re duty-bound to keep secret. But it’s not just doctors who need to be reminded about this. Even those of us working in other professions must watch what we post on Facebook. Otherwise, it might come back to bite us just like what happened to that doctor.