Kansas and Missouri Licensing Defense Attorney Warns that Social Media and Medical Care Don’t Always Mix

As social media use becomes ever-present and clients come to me with licensure issues based on their Facebook and Twitter posts, it seems prudent to go over how your status as a medical care provider can be affected by your social media use.

You likely see friends and family post and repost funny anecdotes about their life and work.  Teachers grumble about grading.  Plumbers complain about clogged pipes.  While you may have an impulse to join in and tell tales from your hospital, nursing home, or medical office, think twice before doing so. Several factors limit your ability to share stories from the workplace, and a failure to use good judgement and obey applicable laws may have significant employment or licensure consequences.

Federal Privacy Laws Limit What You Can Say about Patients

Even if you are a newcomer to the health field, you are likely aware that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ privacy. HIPAA provides a legal framework for protecting your patients’ privacy. In short, you cannot reveal patients’ medical information to third parties without the patient’s consent.

Even if You Post Anonymous Information, It Could Lead to Problems

Removing a patient’s name or distinguishing information from a social media post may help you avoid running afoul of HIPAA, but it may not avoid violating the patient’s privacy. While you may think that removing the patient’s name takes away others’ ability to know who you are joking or griping about, it may make matters worse. If you assisted on six births over a weekend, but joke about one on Facebook, you may have given enough information to make all six patients believe you have violated their privacy.  Moreover, you may have made every recipient of your post question whether you will joke about their medical care sometime in the future. That erodes your credibility as a professional. This problem compounds when you joke or post about a highly specific medical condition on a certain day. That is a recipe for a patient figuring out that you are talking about them.

Use Good Judgment Even When Not Revealing Protected Patient Information

You do not have to violate HIPAA to run into trouble on social media. One thing to keep in mind is that you lose control of social media post once it is posted.  So a quip that you and your colleagues may see as humorous “shop talk” or “gallows humor” may be shocking to recipients to whom the post is eventually forwarded. Mocking or discussing patients or medical procedures performed on a certain day may suggest to your community that you are flippant about patient care or unprofessional. This has implications for your personally and for your employer as well. Serious cases of this may result in a claim of unprofessionalism or licensure issues.

Never Post Pictures of the Workplace

The United States Navy recently investigated two hospital corpsmen who posted inappropriate videos of newborn babies on Snapchat. These were cynical, unprofessional videos mocking the babies. While in the end the videos did not pose any real harm to the children, they gave rise to questions about the corpsmen’s professionalism. Posting pictures from the workplace of patients or procedures suggests  a degree of unprofessionalism that you cannot risk.

Call Attorney Sanger today at (785)-979-4353 to protect your professional license.

Contacting Missouri Licensing Defense Attorney Danielle Sanger can help you protect your licensure and career. While you have a constitutional right to free speech, your employer may illegally take employment action based on what you say on social media. Attorney Danielle Sanger is an experienced Kansas and Missouri licensing attorney and has the experience to both resolve your lingering licensure issues and walk you through your current licensing process. She has the experience to deal with licensing bodies, appear before administrative boards, and provide clients with the advice to best position themselves professionally.