Social Media Create Patient Privacy Minefield

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 28, 2009

"Part of the problem is many people, particularly the younger generation, are a little bit too open when they are engaged with interaction in social media," Stephens says. "Sometimes they provide information that they might not provide in a face-to-face context. The electronic communication is even worse because if it's a conversation between two individuals there is no record of the conversation. But when it is said electronically, that can be captured and held in perpetuity."

Regular readers know my spiel: Ensuring patient confidentiality is a zero tolerance policy. Employees who violate patient confidentiality—whether in person, online, or however—should be fired, as soon as possible. When practical, every other employee in the healthcare organization should be told why that employee was fired.

Patient privacy is a simple, paramount, and ancient ethic in healthcare dating back to Hippocrates. If your healthcare organization can't be trusted with a patient's privacy, it can't be trusted with a patient's health.


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John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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