Also, don’t run into traffic

Every so often I read a story about people behaving in such an epically stupid way with their computers that I wonder if they also have to be warned about, say, trying to make toast in the bath.  There were those SEC employees who seemed to think it was OK to use their work computers to surf for porn during work hours(Don’t use your work computer for porn, folks!  They know!) And now this:

A physician practicing in Rhode Island hospitals has been reprimanded by state regulators after she inadvertently identified a patient through a Facebook post.


The board said Monday that the 48-year-old physician wrote on Facebook about some of her clinical experiences at Westerly Hospital, without using patient names or intending to reveal patient information.

But, the board says, one patient’s injuries were such that an unidentified third party was able to identify the person. It says Westerly Hospital terminated Thran’s clinical privileges after the incident. A spokesman for Kent Hospital says Thran currently works there.

I understand using Facebook to torture your friends and family about the details of your life, expecting them to be as fascinated by you as you are.  I frequently give my legion of “friends” updates about how far I’ve run and how long it took, because I am just absolutely super-certain that they care.  And I also understand having patients that are frustrating or infuriating or unusual, and the desire to tell everyone all about it.

Discussing specific patients on the Internet, at all, is a 100%, unalloyed horrible idea.  Patients are understandably a bit touchy when it comes to having their confidential medical information discussed with outside parties, and hospitals are likewise really skittish about getting fined for violations of privacy law.

Don’t.  Talk about your patients.  On Facebook.  Ever.

(Because it probably bears saying at some point, any mention of patients here will be either a broad discussion if a particular kind of commonly-encountered situation or complaint, a composite or fictionalized.)


Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

One Comment

  1. Wow. We work with a lot of companies that require extensive HIPAA training, and there are always questions by employees about what is and isn’t allowed.

    “Can I post their private medical info on Facebook,” however, is one I have never heard.

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