Facebook Posting about Patient=HIPAA Violation=Physician Sanctions

The case of Dr. Alexandra Thran should cure any physician of the desire to discuss a patient on Facebook.  Dr. Thran has been reprimanded by her state’s Medical Board and lost her emergency room privileges. Although the posting in question did not list the patient’s name, Dr. Thran provided enough details so that at least one other person could identify the patient. The result was irreparable damage to her career. 

In an article in the most recent Annals of Internal Medicine discussing this case, the author referred to Facebook as the “new elevator.”  Those familiar with hospitals will recall the ever present signs reminding health care providers to take care about what they say on elevators.  Whether you are in health care or in another industry, it is important to remind employees that what they say online is not private and that even when they do not name people by name, dots can be connected and that repercussions of doing so can be significant.

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