Facebook and HIPPA

  1. 3
    This may have been covered before but I have a few questions. I work in a small rural hospital in L&D. My coworkers are posting comments on facebook which I feel are inappropriate. Now these comments do not mention patient names or any specific identifiers. In fact, one of the coworkers insists its "legal" to post this content because there are no "identifiers".. But I feel some of the patients can certainly be identified. Some of the recent comments are:

    We had a rough night last nite, three patients got cut and another one will probably be cut soon.

    We had three new babies and one had a broken clavicle

    There are eight newborns in the nursery and three are sick

    We had a code last night but the baby is ok now

    I have been watching this situation from my facebook page for a few months now. I have tried to "warn" these nurses. One nurse had just recently passed boards. But nobody is listening to me and now they believe that its "legal". I don't agree but I need to find it in writing if that makes sense. I finally told my manager and she was shocked. She doesn't know much about the internet and had no idea. I didn't mention names. I don't really care if I **** off my coworkers. I think its immature and unethical. I am no Florence Nightingale but this just seems to be common sense. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
    jrwest, Chapis, and BedsideManner like this.
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  4. 39 Comments so far...

  5. 12
    Not legal at all and since FB isn't anonymous - its stupid and foolhardy of these nurses to post anything at all about their workplace and/or patients.
    canoehead, nursej22, CopperEmerald, and 9 others like this.
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    to the OP. The only thing I talk about on FB about work is-it was a long shift, difficult shift, hard day, etc. No other information.

    All I can say is YIKES re your co-workers.

    otessa
    CopperEmerald, Orca, Chapis, and 1 other like this.
  7. 9
    It probably isn't a HIPAA violation, but I believe that it is a bad idea to discuss specifics about work or vent about it in a public forum such as Facebook. That goes double when the discussion involves other people. My sister sent me an example from Facebook in which an employee ranted about her work and all the s*** she had to do, apparently forgetting that she added her boss as a friend and he read the whole thing. He fired her.

    You mentioned that your hospital is in a rural area. It wouldn't take much for people to figure out that they are the ones being discussed. While they probably cannot make a case for a HIPAA violation, they can complain to hospital administration that their personal situations are being discussed in an open public forum.
    canoehead, CopperEmerald, Virgo_RN, and 6 others like this.
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    I agree with the above post. It is very inappropriate, the info your coworkers are postinf on FB . I also only post that it was a long night, or difficult shift.
    Otessa and BedsideManner like this.
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    Another aspect I'm thinking of is....people who read the postings can figure out where the posters work pretty easily. It could have an impact on the facility's reputation, and influence whether people go there for care or not. The boss would not be pleased...
  10. 3
    My mouth dropped open when I read that initial post. Privacy means exactly that, private. I know that if I realized that I was the object of discussion on something as public as Facebook I'd be livid. What happens to me and/or to my family is between my family and I. If I want anyone/everyone to know my business, I'll post it myself.

    One common and appropriate way to state about small rural towns/communities is this: "Everyone knows your business and quite often they know BEFORE you do."

    BedsideManner
    Orca, JB2007, and JC_Smith2009 like this.
  11. 2
    one of my step-daughter's teachers posted a student's exam answer sheet, making fun of some of the answers. the handwriting was distinctive and the student, who was friends with some of her teachers, saw the test . . . .

    teacher was disciplined.

    what the op describes is no different, and i hope some people get disciplined severely so they learn their lesson and everyone else learns by example!
    Orca and JB2007 like this.
  12. 1
    Even talking about a difficult shift, or short staffing can be grounds for termination if it harms the reputation of the place you work at.

    I see the same thing with my co-workers and I cringe when I read inappropriate thing.
    RNSC likes this.
  13. 0
    this may seem draconian, but i bet you it will work to send a message. print out and send an anonymous copy of your post (by regular mail, not email, which can be traced), along with the specifics for which hospital, to the local newspaper and television station, and then let the chips fall where they may. here's why; many of those nurses either don't know or care enough about patient privacy, and they use insider information to legitimatize themselves as being a "pro" or someone "in the know" during mindless banter with strangers. it's all about boosting their own shallow egos at the expense of their patient's privacy, which seems to matter little to them. this is really the height of professional misconduct.

    let them get themselves fired.

    afterward, your institution will probably smarten up and become very computer aware. you'll then find that facebook will be blocked from your institution, and new employees will be warned that any patient information found on fb, even if posted on personal time from a personal computer, will likely cost them their job. further, if a patient sues, the hospital will be legally forced to divulge and surrender all that they know, and the patient can then sue the individual nurses.

    risking a license, profession ethics, and personal livelihood, all for the sake of a little gossip? lol... i mean, get a life! that is so childish that those people, nurses or not, really deserve to be fired. frankly, imho, anyone that immature really shouldn't be allowed in nursing in the first place...

    Quote from batmik
    even talking about a difficult shift, or short staffing can be grounds for termination if it harms the reputation of the place you work at...
    no that is not correct. if you're not talking about a patient, then there is no hipaa violation. discussion about your employer falls strictly under freedom of speech constitutional guarantees, unless you previously signed a nondisclosure agreement with your employer.
    Last edit by Emergency RN on Dec 31, '09


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