One of the first things I do with new accident client is tell them to either take down their Facebook page or stop posting it as people will say or post private things on Facebook that can seriously effect a an injury claim. The same can go for doctors apparently now too!
A St. Louis, Missouri OB-GYN is in hot water after posting extremely sensitive personal information about a patient on Facebook. The doctor, Amy T. Dunbar, posted revealing information about her patient, including that the woman had suffered a stillborn birth.
Dr. Dunbar raised the ire of many women after going on Facebook to complain about a patient she said was routinely late for appointments. Dunbar posted a comment to her nearly 500 friends asking whether, given her patient's constant tardiness, she should respond by showing up late to her delivery.
The full message said: "So I have a patient who has chosen to either no-show or be late (sometimes hours) for all of her prenatal visits, ultrasound and NSTs. She is now 3 hours late for her induction. May I show up late to her delivery?" Later in the conversation thread the doctor revealed information concerning the patient's stillborn baby.
The conversation was revealed after someone posted a screenshot of the exchange on a Facebook page created for pregnant women at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, a site known as "Mercy Moms To Be." The hospital, located here in St. Louis, released a statement saying that Dunbar has not been fired and that leadership within the hospital would be discussing the matter with Dr. Dunbar. Hospital administrators say that they agree Dunbar's comments were inappropriate and will be reviewing the full statement to decide whether she violated the patient's privacy. The hospital says it will not reveal how it intends to punish Dunbar, but says it will use this as a teaching moment to educate staff about the inherent problems associated with social media, especially in the context of especially thorny medical privacy issues.
The problem of doctors violating patients' privacy by using social media is a growing one that the medical professional is starting to become aware of. A survey conducted in 2009 that was published in JAMA revealed that 60% of medical school deans said there had been incidents of med students posting unprofessional online conduct. Specifically, violations of patient confidentially were reported in 13% of such incidents.
Last year the American Medical Association released guidelines that were meant to guide doctors through appropriate use of social media. The guidance said physicians should be very careful when interacting with patients online and that doctors should follow the same strict rules regarding professionalism whether conversations are taking place online or offline. Medical ethicists are saying doctors should view posting on social networking sites in the same way they view conversations taking place hospital elevators. In either place it is strictly forbidden to discuss private cases in public.
Hospitals are taking note of the problem given that studies have shown that violating patients' privacy through social media sites can do more than result in an ethics investigation. Instead, such breaches are increasingly leading to firings and lawsuits by patients who had their privacy violated.
Medical negligence lawyer Ben Sansone is located in St Louis (Clayton) Missouri and handles medical negligence cases across all of Missouri and Illinois. For a free consultation please call (314) 863-0500 or contact us online.
Source: "Fury sparked as ob-gyn posts personal patient info on Facebook," by Lee Moran, published at NYDailyNews.com.
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