Social Media and Breach of Patient’s Privacy

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With rapid increase of technology usage in health care, usage of social media is imperious. This outrages growth of health care industry is a good thing. On the other hand it can be a problem to healthcare facilities if their employees are careless about posting things on social media. So what exactly is social media? Social Media is the future of communication, a countless array of internet based tools and platforms that increase and enhance the sharing of information. This new form of media makes the transfer of text, photos, audio, video, and information in general increasingly fluid among internet users. Social Media has relevance not only for regular internet users, but business as well. Platforms like Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Weblogs and Linkedin have created online communities where people can share as much or as little personal information as they desire with other members. The result is an enormous amount of information that can be easily shared, searched, promoted, disputed, and created. Because it is easy to share, fast and popular, it results to lots of potential problems. It can be a reason to many lawsuits in healthcare industry by violating the people’s privacy. One of these lawsuits is Doyle BYRNES suing Johnson County Community College’s doctors, Dr. Clarissa Craig in her individual and official capacities; Ms. Jeanne Walsh in her individual and official capacities; Ms. Amber Delphia in her individual and official capacities; Dr. Marilyn Rhinehart in her individual and official capacities; Dr. Dennis Day in his individual and official capacities, Defendants. This case was in District Court of Kansas and hearing was held in January 6, 2011. The case was about a nursing student, Doyle Byrnes, who was expelled from nursing school for violating the student code of conduct by posting a picture of herself on Facebook next to a placenta. Byrnes filed a suit because she had already paid tuition for her courses and she could receive neither credit nor a refund for those courses. Doyle Byrnes was granted and reinstated to full nursing student status as a decision of the case.

Defendants were ordered to permit Brynes to take her final examination and readmit her to nursing program. Brynes’ victory in the case is part of the school’s code of conduct not addressing photographs or social media. (Byrnes v. Johnson County Community College, 2011)

Similar law suit was filed in Kentucky in April 8, 2011 by Nina Yoder, a student at University of Louisville School of Nursing, against the university and two of its officials. Nina Yoder watched a live birth in her childbearing course and described the birth on her Myspace page. This action resulted dismiss Yoder for violating the honor code and course’s confidentiality agreement. She alleged First and Fourteenth Amendment violations and sought both damages and injunctive relief. The district court granted her summary judgment, though not on her First and Fourteenth Amendment claims. The district court seemingly awarded Yoder relief on a breach of contract theory but not alleged constitutional claims. (Yoder v. University of Louisville, 2011)

The use of social media is multi-channel. All it takes is a phone and a moment to create a breach. It takes only one post or one tweet to reach thousands of people instantly. Let’s say there is a birthday party for a nurse on the floor and an employee takes a picture of her with her colleagues. In the background of the picture, a white board lists that a patient, a local celebrity, is in room 101 awaiting a procedure. First nurse posts the photo on her Facebook page. Second nurse tweets it to her friends. Third nurse uploads the picture to Picasa (photo sharing web site) and links to it on her health blog. The hospital is informed when the photo appears on a local newspaper. While unintentional, a clear breach has occurred. First nurse’s posting may not reach too many people if photo is only available to her friends to see it....
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