As part of our companies training we have an annual “recertification” of HIPAA for all team members. I, along with all team members, go through this course.
I sat down to take my course last week and noticed that a lot of the course was about social media. It gave a lot of information about not posting patient data on social media and what constitutes patient data. At first I was really surprised. I wondered ” who would do this?” But as I went further in the course I found out who did this, and it really made me think.
One small facility had nurses using a public site online to give the notes of patients to the other nurses for nursing care. They made it private and thought it would be a good way to make sure everyone knew about the patients’ needs during shift changes. Another posted about a case they were involved in and described it while leaving off names. Unfortunately enough was said that the identity was able to be guessed.
The reality is that we live in a social media world, and many of us end up in all kinds of discussions pertaining to many subjects. How easy would it be to discuss something that we saw in our facility but not put a name to it? I think it’s easier than anyone realizes. What we need to remember is that, even if we leave the name of a patient off, someone could still recognize that patient. The nurses were trying to give good continuity of care in their opinion but didn’t realize how easily someone could have gotten access to their “private” area and read the notes.
Social media is not going away. I don’t want it to go away. I love being able to see a picture of something my son has done even though he doesn’t live with me anymore. What we do need is to make sure we have a social media policy and then educate our team members. In my mind what I need to remember is that patient information and social media are like oil and vinegar — they don’t mix.
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