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Looking up patients on Facebook

Nurses   (3,171 Views 48 Comments)
by falconersys falconersys (Member)

falconersys has 4 years experience and works as a Psychiatric residential counselor, student nurse.

503 Visitors; 35 Posts

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If you're already part of some of the student nursing Facebook groups, you may have seen this going around before it got dirty deleted. I wanted to get some professionals' opinions.

Apparently some nursing students and RNs believe it is okay to look up your patient's Facebook for the sole purpose of curiosity, not for an emergency purpose (IE trying to find a family member to contact, etc.) To me, this is very much a HIPAA violation, even though Facebook is technically public information. What is your thoughts on this?

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Emergent has 25 years experience and works as a Emergency Room RN.

7 Followers; 2 Articles; 64,137 Visitors; 2,774 Posts

It's not a HIPAA violation but I wouldn't advertise that you did it. There's a sanctimonious tattletale in every bunch.

If someone leaves something viewable to the public, it is their own fault if someone views it. HIPAA was designed to protect healthcare information, not information that anyone can see.

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falconersys has 4 years experience and works as a Psychiatric residential counselor, student nurse.

503 Visitors; 35 Posts

9 minutes ago, Emergent said:

It's not a HIPAA violation but I wouldn't advertise that you did it. There's a sanctimonious tattletale in every bunch.

If someone leaves something viewable to the public, it is their own fault if someone views it. HIPAA was designed to protect healthcare information, not information that anyone can see.

1. Part of my concern was that if you look someone up on FB, they can appear on yours and your friends' "suggested friends" lists, and your account is likely to appear on the suggested list of the person you looked up. Even if it's legally allowed, is it ethical to establish that kind of online connection? 

2. I LOVE, love, love your profile picture. 

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Kallie3006 has 6 years experience as a ADN and works as a Jack of all trades, master of none.

1 Follower; 5,149 Visitors; 367 Posts

Looking someone up on facebook is not a HIPAA violation, possibly creepy but no violation- putting on someone's facebook that you took care of so and so after he got downgraded from ICU for respiratory failure because of prolonged anesthesia, and he is doing better but still cannot eat because of the NGT and lack of bowel function return- is a HIPAA violation.

 

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Emergent has 25 years experience and works as a Emergency Room RN.

7 Followers; 2 Articles; 64,137 Visitors; 2,774 Posts

6 minutes ago, falconersys said:

1. Part of my concern was that if you look someone up on FB, they can appear on yours and your friends' "suggested friends" lists, and your account is likely to appear on the suggested list of the person you looked up. Even if it's legally allowed, is it ethical to establish that kind of online connection? 

2. I LOVE, love, love your profile picture. 

As Kallie says, it is a bit creepy and stalkerish. I waste my time as much as the next person on meaningless activities. Looking up patients sounds pretty boring. 

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TheMoonisMyLantern has 12 years experience as a ADN, LPN, RN and works as a RN.

1 Article; 8,174 Visitors; 192 Posts

An interesting conversation, I think while it may not constitute a HIPAA violation (and I could be wrong) I think it is in most cases inappropriate and indicates poor professional boundaries. However, there's always exceptions depending on the specialty, patient population, etc. For example I knew an oncology patient that various staff had befriended on Facebook and they had been involved in their care for over a decade. I didn't in that case believe it was inappropriate.

I think for the most part we should keep our curiosity in check as it does seem to be disrespectful of right to privacy.

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TriciaJ has 37 years experience as a RN and works as a Retired.

10 Followers; 32,570 Visitors; 3,116 Posts

I just think this is a really, really bad idea.  Best just to not go there.

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dream'n has 25 years experience and works as a RN.

14,405 Visitors; 1,015 Posts

Not a HIPAA violation, but it is bad boundaries and border line unethical.  I did work in Oncology awhile ago and several staff, including some I really admired, befriended long standing patients.  I never did and found it inappropriate.  I never said anything to them about it as I don't believe it breaks any particular rules,  but it did leave a bad impression.

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CalicoKitty has 6 years experience as a BSN, RN and works as a Med-Surg Nurse.

1 Follower; 15,355 Visitors; 615 Posts

I had one patient that wanted me to look up stuff he had done. I did. But, didn't have the heart to give him my opinion. 

Another patient I looked up because he said he was a doctor. With the name search, I found some disciplinary action on a website. Didn't ask any questions, and still called him Doctor, though I'm pretty sure he was no longer practicing.

Found a social media account of one of the physicians at my job. Interesting stuff on the page. Used the profile pic on a bulletin board on the unit discussing staff members.

While I don't necessarily think it is "wrong", I don't think I got out of it what I expected. Overall, it seems more like a can of worms that doesn't need to be opened.

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CharleeFoxtrot has 7 years experience as a ADN, RN.

5,968 Visitors; 398 Posts

4 hours ago, TriciaJ said:

I just think this is a really, really bad idea.  Best just to not go there.

Totally agree, I can see no good reason to just "peep" onto a patient's life on FakeBook or google for that matter.

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angiebelle440 has 7 years experience and works as a RN.

531 Visitors; 12 Posts

Well, is the only reason you know their name is because you have accessed their medical chart?  Feels like a crossed line to me.  But that's just me. *sips coffee* 

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aprilmoss has 20 years experience and works as a School Nurse.

1,759 Visitors; 245 Posts

I'll have to disagree here.    Once you expose a patients name on a computer outside the clinical environment you've likely violated your facility's HIPAA policies.   The name of a patient is very much PHI.

 

Edited by aprilmoss

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