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Patients, Others May ID Themselves in Your Posts
Online posts often contain more data than were really intended, says Michael Blaivas, MD, RDMS, professor of emergency medicine in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Northside Hospital Forsyth in Cumming, GA, and patients may be able to pick themselves out.
Other individuals may see the post, and know who the patient is, says Corey M. Slovis, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. "Many of us let others know that we had to go to the ER, so our identities could easily be ascertained in certain circumstances," he says.
William Sullivan, DO, JD, FACEP, director of emergency services at St. Margaret's Hospital in Spring Valley, IL, and a Frankfort, IL-based attorney, says he is unaware of any cases involving EPs sued for posting information on social media sites. "If legal liability ensues from posting information to social media sites, most likely it will be a result of privacy violations," he says.
Sullivan says to remember that there is a high likelihood that others will be able to find posts that you make to social media sites, even if you remove the posts. "The Google search engine crawls sites and keeps a cache picture of many of the sites it crawls," he says.
Websites such as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine also save multiple previous versions of websites, says Sullivan, adding that anyone who is able to view your posts on Facebook or Twitter is also able to print or copy your posts.
Health care workers may be tempted to post information about their coworkers, their department, their supervisor, or their hospital on social networking sites, notes Sullivan. "General statements probably aren't harmful, but posting negative or untrue statements are more likely to draw attention," he says.
If you interact with coworkers online, it would be very easy for someone to print out a copy of negative information you posted and distribute that information to your boss or to the hospital CEO, Sullivan adds.
"Even if you delete offensive posts, others may have copied or printed them prior to their deletion," he says. "A general rule that some lawyers use is to avoid posting anything that you wouldn't want seen written on a billboard and attributed to you."
Blaivas says that it's also important to consider the potential legal impact of social media use of other ED staff members.
a.though EPs will be held to a higher standard personally and are more likely to be sued, says Blaivas, hospital staff are tied to the hospital, which has "deep pockets" in the eyes of lawyers. "In addition, poor publicity from someone's site can negatively impact business for the ED and hospital," he says.
For more information, contact:
Michael Blaivas, MD, RDMS, Vice President, Emergency Ultrasound Consultants, Bear, DE. Phone: (302) 832-9054. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Rice, MD, JD, FACEP, Gig Harbor, WA. Phone: (206) 790-5371. E-mail: email@example.com.
Corey M. Slovis, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN. Phone: (615) 936-1315. E-mail: corey.slovis@Vanderbilt.edu.
William Sullivan, DO, JD, FACEP, Frankfort, IL. Phone: (708) 323-1015. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.