eDocTalk article

Social media misuse <br>leads to physician’s termination

December 2012

With the ever-growing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, there is an increased risk that health information will become public and violate patient privacy. Last year a physician in Rhode Island lost her job over social media use. And Legacy Health has terminated employees for social media misuse.

HIPAA (the law that protects us all against unauthorized disclosure of protected health information) imposes strict legal obligations on Legacy Health and health care professionals regarding patient privacy and information security. Legacy’s social media policy, LH 500.205 “Electronic Communication, Social Media, and Electronic Devices,” addresses these obligations and your responsibility to help meet them.

Legacy policies state that medical staff and Legacy employees may not disclose on social media websites proprietary or nonpublic information to which they have access. Such information includes any patient information (whether or not you think it’s sufficient to individually identify a patient).

Please honor Legacy’s mission and do the right thing

Each of us has a duty to our patients to protect the privacy of their health information. As tempting as it may be to share a compelling patient story on Facebook or to use Twitter or Tumblr to communicate patient information, you jeopardize Legacy and the patient’s privacy, and potentially subject yourself to the risk of a lawsuit or government sanction, such as criminal or civil penalties and/or loss of your license.

Legacy HIPAA experts are available for Q&A or in-service training. Just call the HIPAA Hotline at 503-413-4495 to make arrangements.

If you have any questions regarding Legacy's social media policy, or to report concerns, please contact your employee relations representative or call the HIPAA Hotline.